Each year, tens of thousands of Queenslanders are diagnosed with cancer. It is estimated that nationally, in 2021, over one million people were alive who were currently living with or had lived with cancer.1 Based on state population proportions, about 200,000 of those affected would be Queenslanders. In 2020, 32,547 persons were diagnosed with any form of cancer, representing 0.6% of the Queensland population.

Cancer burden

In 2022, the disease group with the greatest health burden was cancer and other neoplasms, with 932,421 healthy years of life lost nationally. The majority (91.6%) of this burden was fatal. Nationally, a person’s risk of dying from cancer was estimated to be 1-in-6 (16.7%) by age 85 years in 2021.2

Cancer and other neoplasms ranked 3rd with spending of $12.076 billion or 8.6% of total disease expenditure nationally in 2019–20.3 Based on cancers diagnosed from 1997 to 2015, the average annual healthcare expenditure was $3.66 billion in Queensland for 2013–2016.4

Selected cancers

Although many cancer diagnoses have no known cause, it is estimated that up to 38% of cancer deaths and 33% of cancer cases in Australia are preventable through changes in modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity and sun exposure.5 National screening programs for breast, cervical and bowel cancers, aim to reduce cancer burden through early detection.6 Reducing exposure to substances that cause cancer and increasing participation in screening programs provide opportunities to prevent and reduce cancer burden.

This section presents cancer data for all cancers combined and for seven selected cancers with a high burden and healthcare expenditure. In 2022, a total of 479,873 years of healthy life were lost (51.5% of cancer burden and 8.7% of total burden), that was attributable to these seven cancers.

For these selected cancers the number and age-standardised rate for years of healthy life lost nationally in 2022 were:

  • lung: 159,281 years (standardised rate 4.8 per 1,000 persons)
  • bowel: 97,754 years (standardised rate 3.0 per 1,000 persons)
  • breast: 73,518 years (standardised rate 2.4 per 1,000 persons)
  • pancreatic: 61,057 years (standardised rate 1.9 per 1,000 persons)
  • prostate: 55,659 years (standardised rate 1.6 per 1,000 persons)
  • melanoma of the skin: 25,495 years (standardised rate 0.8 per 1,000 persons)
  • cervical: 7,109 years (standardised rate 0.3 per 1,000 persons).

Corresponding disease expenditure information for 2019–20 was $664.3 million (lung), $1.096 billion (bowel), $1.268 billion (breast), $188.1 million (pancreatic), $1.359 billion (prostate), $259.5 million (melanoma of the skin) and $54.1 million (cervical).

Information is presented for key measures used to monitor cancer in the Queensland and Australian population:

  • Cancer incidence

    Over time, changes in modifiable risk factors can effectively reduce the number of diagnoses for some cancers. For lung cancer, this is becoming evident in younger male cohorts.

  • Cancer mortality and survival

    Improvements in cancer mortality and survival are driving reductions in fatal burden. From 2003 to 2022, there was a 25.8% decrease in the rate of years of life lost (YLL) from cancer.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2021. Cancer in Australia 2021. doi: 10.25816/YE05-NM50.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2022. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2022. doi: 10.25816/E2V0-GP02.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2022. Disease Expenditure in Australia 2019-20. Australian.
  4. Merollini K.M.D., Gordon L.G., Ho Y.M., Aitken J.F. & Kimlin M.G. 2022. Cancer Survivors’ Long-Term Health Service Costs in Queensland, Australia: Results of a Population-Level Data Linkage Study (Cos-Q)International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 19(15): 9473. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19159473.
  5. Wilson L.F., Antonsson A., Green A.C., Jordan S.J., Kendall B.J., Nagle C.M., Neale R.E., Olsen C.M., Webb P.M. & Whiteman D.C. 2018. How many cancer cases and deaths are potentially preventable? Estimates for Australia in 2013: Estimates of potentially preventable cancer cases and deathsInternational Journal of Cancer. 142(4): 691–701. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31088.
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2021. Cancer in Australia 2021. doi: 10.25816/YE05-NM50.

Last updated: May 2024