Total number of cancer cases continues to rise but some good news

Annual Report of the National Cancer Registry in Ireland (December 2015)

The 20th annual statistical report of the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI) was published last month. The NCRI is Ireland’s main source of cancer information. It is seen in this report that the total number of cancer cases continues to rise, predominantly driven by Ireland’s ageing population. The report does, however, have some more positive news – for men, the risk of developing cancer, which had been rising steadily since at least 1994, may now be plateauing. Also, the fall in the number of male smokers has resulted in a continuing reduction in the risk of lung cancer among men. The risk of lung cancer continues to rise among women. Survival from cancer continues to improve.



The report summarises cancer incidence in Ireland for the period 1994 to 2013, with particular emphasis on the most recent three years for which reliable data are available (2011-2013), longer-term trends in incidence, and prevalence (the numbers of cancer patients still alive). Brief summaries of cancer mortality (2011-2012 data) are also included. The main findings of the report are summarised below.

Cancer Incidence: new cases per year

Approximately 30,000 cases of invasive cancer, or 20,500 cases excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), were registered annually between 2011 and 2013 inclusive. Incidence rates for all invasive cancers combined, excluding NMSC, were 28% higher for men than for women and cumulative lifetime risk (to age 75 years) remains approximately 1 in 3 for men and 1 in 4 for women.

Incidence Trends

For males, the rate of diagnosis of invasive cancer (excluding NMSC) reached a plateau over the period of 2008-2013. This was probably due to the static incidence rate of prostate cancer since 2004, a consistent fall in the rate of lung and bladder cancer since 1994 and of leukaemia since 2004.

Rates of invasive cancer (excluding NMSC) in females have increased significantly by about 1% annually since 1994, without evidence of a plateau. Population screening for breast and cervical cancer probably had some bearing on this as did the continuing upward trend in female lung cancer.

For the first time, lung cancer has now marginally overtaken colorectal cancer as the 2nd most common cancer diagnosed in females (average counts 2011-2013). Lung cancer incidence fell by 1% annually in males but increased by >2% annually in females over the period 1994-2013.

Mortality: deaths from cancer

Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in both sexes, comprising 18% of cancer deaths in women and 23% of cancer deaths in men during the period 2011-2012. Deaths from lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined made up almost half of all deaths from cancer during this period.


Survival from cancer continues to improve. Survival at five years following diagnosis improved from 57% to 61% for patients with bowel cancer, from 80% to 82% for breast cancer and from 56% to 62% for cervical cancer, for patients diagnosed in 2008-2012 compared to those diagnosed in 2003-2007.

Cancer Prevalence: numbers of cancer patients still alive

At the end of 2013 there were approximately 124,000 persons living with or beyond a cancer diagnosis, whose cancer had been diagnosed over the previous 20 years (1994-2013). The most numerous cancer survivors were those who had been diagnosed with breast cancer (29,828), prostate cancer (28,432), bowel cancer (16,754) or melanoma of the skin (8,510).

Over 70% of known prostate, colorectal and bladder cancer survivors were over 65 at the end of 2013, reflecting their generally older age at diagnosis. In contrast, fewer than 15% of patients diagnosed with cancers of the cervix and Hodgkin lymphoma were over 65, indicative of their much younger age at diagnosis.


The full NCRI report can be found here.


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