Cancer Council Australia


Cancer Council hosts World Cancer Congress

Cancer Council Australia is proud to be hosting the World Cancer Congress, which is coming to Australia for the first time in December. 

To be staged at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Congress will be held in conjunction with the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s Annual Scientific Meeting. 

With a theme of ‘Joining forces – accelerating progress’, the World Cancer Congress will bring together cancer control experts and leaders in global health to find solutions and actions to reduce the impact of cancer world-wide.

The theme for Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s 41st Annual Scientific Meeting is ‘Cancer survivorship, supportive care and palliative care’, with a disease focus on lung cancer and metastases.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting will be held 2-4 Dec and the World Cancer Congress 4-6 Dec, with 4 Dec being a joint day. 

From policy, fundraising and cancer control, through to treatment, prevention and palliative care, these events will appeal to a wide range of professionals working with cancer. 

Discounts are available for those interested in attending both events.

New report shows cancer the No. 1 global killer

A global scientific report released to coincide with World Cancer Day (4 February) showed cancer was the biggest cause of mortality worldwide, responsible for 8.2 million deaths per year and rising.

The World Cancer Report also predicted that cancer incidence would increase by 75% over the next two decades, exceeding 20 million new cases a year in 2025.

Cancer Council Australia spokesperson, Terry Slevin, said reasons for the increase varied in different countries. “Australia has one of the world’s highest cancer incidence rates, third in the world behind Denmark and France, largely because of our ageing population,” Mr Slevin said.

“Australians are living longer than previous generations, thanks to improved infection and cardiovascular disease control. Unfortunately, cancer is a disease that is more likely to affect us later in life, so the longer Australians live, the more cancer cases we see”. 

“Extended life expectancy in the developing world is also increasing cancer rates globally. Unfortunately, developing countries are also adopting the worst of our western lifestyle, such as smoking, poor diet and inactivity, which is significantly contributing to global cancer prevalence. 

“We need to act as a global community and do what we know works to reduce the cancer burden – promoting a healthy lifestyle, evidence-based screening programs, and access to life-saving medicine.”

Screening mammography saves lives

Cancer Council Australia confirmed that the weight of scientific evidence shows mammographic screening for breast cancer is a lifesaving public health intervention irrespective of a Canadian study that questions mortality benefit

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said the Canadian study, published in the British Medical Journal in February, was not relevant to the Australian context.

“The Canadian study found no mortality benefit for women aged 40 to 59 undergoing annual mammograms,” Professor Olver said. “However, evidence shows mammography as a screening tool is most beneficial for women aged 50 and over, undertaken every two years.

“So you are comparing apples with oranges if you try to apply conclusions from the Canadian study to Australia, where mammography is appropriately targeted through the BreastScreen Australia program.

“The Canadian study also looked at screening over five years, while the most comprehensive study of BreastScreen reviewed mammography outcomes over 15 years and found an overall mortality benefit between 21 and 30 per cent, at existing screening participation levels.

“The message is simple: the weight of scientific evidence supports mammography as a population screening tool, and many Australian women are alive today thanks to 20 years of BreastScreen.”

Cancer Council Australia congratulates UK on tobacco plain packaging progress

Cancer Council Australia has congratulated the UK Government for taking another step closer to introducing plain packaging for tobacco.

Professor Olver said the UK Government’s announcement that the case for plain packaging was ‘compelling’ and that it would soon table draft regulations was a victory for evidence over scaremongering.

He said public health groups worldwide would welcome the UK’s response to the independent Chantler review of the evidence on plain packaging.

“Having had this experience in Australia, it was clear that the most vocal opposition came from those who want to sell cigarettes and a few uninformed ideologues,” he said.

“The only credible, independent research on the effects of plain packaging in Australia shows it is doing what 20 years’ worth of analysis suggested it would achieve – making smoking far less appealing to young people.”

Professor Olver said tobacco companies had produced numerous reports claiming that plain packaging would not work.

“The louder the tobacco industry screamed, the more it showed that plain packaging was a threat to their attempts to lure and addict new smokers,” he said.

“Today’s newly addicted smokers are tomorrow’s cancer patients.”

Recommended changes to cervical screening good news for Australian women

Cancer Council has welcomed recommended changes to Australia’s cervical screening program announced by Australia’s Medical Services Advisory Committee.

Professor Olver said evidence showed a new HPV (human papillomavirus) test every five years, which is recommended to become the primary cervical screening tool, would be more effective than the Pap test and just as safe.

Professor Olver emphasised that the proposed changes were recommendations only and that women should continue to have Pap tests every two years for now. Pending decisions by government, it is likely the changes would not be implemented before 2016.

“The Pap test based screening program has been a great public health success story since its introduction in 1991 and is the main reason cervical cancer mortality rates in Australia are among the world’s lowest,” Professor Olver said.

“In its first 10 years, the Pap test based program reduced mortality by 50%, a figure that plateaued in the subsequent decade. The HPV test is predicted to further reduce mortality by 15%.”

Professor Olver said the changes should also include improved targeting of the program to Indigenous women, who have not shared equitably in Australia’s cervical cancer successes.

“Cancer Council has been formally involved in the renewal of the screening program, and the review team has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the evidence.”

Mixed messages on DNA test a risk to bowel cancer screening

Cancer Council is urging GPs to encourage asymptomatic patients 50 or over to screen for bowel cancer with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), which remains the gold standard for population screening.

The advice is aimed at addressing ‘mixed messages’ in the Australian media about a new blood test for bowel cancer, which is only a third as sensitive for advanced adenomas and stage one cancer as immunochemical FOBT.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said the evidence clearly showed that FOBT was the most effective tool for bowel cancer screening.

“New biomarkers for major disease usually attract media coverage, but it’s important to remain focused on the evidence,” Professor Olver said. “As the developers of the DNA test have noted, it could have a role as an adjunct to FOBT.”

Professor Olver stressed that the evidence, including major pilot programs in Australia, overwhelmingly supported FOBT as the best population screening tool.

Professor James St John, gastro-enterologist, researcher and longstanding member of Cancer Council’s National Cancer Screening Committee, said the FOBT-based national program, when fully implemented, had the potential to prevent 70,000 bowel cancer deaths over the next four decades.

“Identifying cancer and precancerous conditions early is the key to effective screening,” Professor St John said.

Immunochemical FOBT are around three times more sensitive for advanced adenomas and stage one bowel cancers than the blood-based DNA test. On a population basis, this can make an enormous difference to mortality and morbidity.

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