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February 23, 2012
Cancer rates rising steadily Statistics Canada reports

Plan sponsors should expect to receive increased claims activity involving cancer, based on data published by Statistics Canada.

According to a new report published by the government agency, five-year prevalence rates for all cancers increased by 2.1 per cent per year from 1997 to 2008 to 1,490 cases per 100,000 of population.

The largest increases occurred with liver cancer, which recorded incidence rate increases of 8.3 per cent annually.  Thyroid cancers followed close behind with 7.9 per cent annual increases.

The strong increase in liver cancers is attributed to increased immigration from countries where hepatitis B and C infections are common, increased intravenous drug use and sharing of needles, increased rates of type 2 diabetes and improved methods of cancer detection.

Despite the jump in liver cancer rates, it is still one of the least prevalent cancers, with only 6.2 cases per 100,000 of population.  

Prostate cancer was the most common form of cancer reported in the study, with 610 cases per 100,000.  Prevalence rates for that disease rose by three per cent annually during the 1997-2008 period, Statistics Canada says.

Breast cancer was the second most common form, afflicting 263 people out of 100,000.  The prevalence rate for that cancer rose by an average of 1.3 per cent per year during the study period.

The only declines in cancer prevalence rates occurred with larynx and cervix cancers, which declined annually by 1.9 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

An aging population and improved screening techniques are attributed to approximately half of the increase in the overall cancer rate, the Statistics Canada report says.

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