About Cancer in Canada


Over the coming 15 years, projections produced by BC statistics suggest that the population of BC is expected to grow by 20% or about 1 million residents. The number of seniors in BC (those aged 65 or older) is expected to be 72% higher in 2027 compared with 2011, which amounts to an increase of about half a million seniors.

The growth and aging of the BC population will result in a dramatic increase in the number of new cancer diagnoses in the province. It is anticipated the number of new annual cases will grow by 45% to almost 35,000 new cancer cases in 2027.

The increase in cases per year between 2011 and 2027 is expected to be more than 10,000. This increase is greater than the total number of cancers currently diagnosed annually in the Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island Health Authorities combined.

In 2011, there were 23,829 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the province; this total is projected to increase by more than 45% to 34,666 new cases in 2027.

The overall increase in new cancer cases is expected to be roughly equal between men (+47%) and women (+43%), however the projected increase for some specific cancers does vary by sex.

In 2011, breast cancer was the most common cancer diagnosed both in females and overall with 3,453 new cases; breast cancer is expected to remain the most commonly diagnosed cancer in females with 4,659 projected new cases for 2027.

Prostate cancer is the only cancer projected to eclipse breast cancer in 2027 with 4,939 expected new cases; this represents a 45% increase from the 3,397 cases diagnosed in 2011. Prostate cancer has however proven difficult to predict in past years and some caution should be exercised in interpreting these projections.

New cases of melanoma are expected to increase quite dramatically over the next 15 years to more than 2,100 cases in 2027. This is driven by both the projected population changes and by increases in incidence rates in both men and women in BC. Melanoma is one of the few cancers where incidence rates have been increasing recently in both males and females (see report appendix).

Lung cancer was among the most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2011 (2,842 total new cases) and is expected to continue to represent a significant portion of the cancer burden in 2027 with 3,664 new cases. By 2027 the projected number of female lung cancer cases is expected to be about 350 cases higher than the number in men. Historically in BC, the number of lung cancers diagnosed in men has always been higher than the number diagnosed in women. Our projection that we will see more lung cancers in women in the coming years compared to men is due to differences in trends in rates between men and women associated with past smoking patterns.

Breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers will continue to be significant sources of cancer mortality accounting for more than 15% of total cancer mortality in 2027.

Additional Facts

Cancer was diagnosed in 113 BC children (age 0-14) in 2011. The most commonly diagnosed cancers in children include (# cases): leukemia (34), brain and central nervous system (21), lymphoma (12), sarcoma (10) and germ cell tumours (9).

1 in 2 British Columbia males is expected to develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 3 BC females will develop cancer in their lifetime.

In BC, 1 in 8 females will develop breast cancer, 1 in 39 will develop uterine cancer and 1 in 77 will develop ovarian cancer over their lives.

The lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer is about 1 in 7 for BC males.

The lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is roughly the same in men and women; in BC about 1 in 14 people are expected to develop lung cancer over their lifetime.

In British Columbia, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 5 males are expected to die of cancer

Lung cancer is expected to kill 1 in 17 BC males and 1 in 19 BC females.

1 in 33 BC males and 1 in 38 BC females are expected to die of colorectal cancer.

1 in 36 BC females are expected to die of breast cancer.

1 in 29 BC males are expected to die of prostate cancer.

8,746 British Columbia adults died of cancer in 2011; this resulted in a total of 136,438 years of life lost to cancer. Put another way, this means that BC adults who died of cancer in 2011 lost an average of 15.6 years of their life expectancy to cancer.

Source: BC Cancer Registry 2013 Annual Report. Vancouver, BC: BC Cancer Agency; 2014.