Cancer in Ireland 1994-2017 with estimates for 2017-2019: Annual Report of the National Cancer Registry

Cover of 2019 Annual Report
Publication date: 
October, 2019
Related staff: 
Dr Paul Walsh (former staff)
Updated statistics on cancer incidence, mortality and survival show that, although the numbers of cases diagnosed annually continues to rise (largely driven by population growth and ageing), survival prospects for patients continue to improve.
PDF icon NCRI Annual Report 20193.23 MB
  • It is estimated that about 35,440 invasive cancers were diagnosed annually during 2017-2019, or 23,890 cancers excluding the common but rarely fatal non-melanoma skin cancer (or 43,360 cancers and non-invasive tumours registered by NCRI). The age-adjusted risk of developing cancer was about 22% higher for men than for women, overall (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), and also higher for most cancer types.
  • Trends and projections for cancer incidence in Ireland published by NCRI earlier this year show that, when we account for population aging, rates have generally stabilised or even declined in recent years. However, population growth and ageing will result in substantial increase in the number of cases over coming decades (potentially a doubling by 2045).
  • Cancer is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for almost 31% of deaths in 2016, and an annual average of about 9,020 deaths from invasive cancer occurred during 2014-2016. Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in both sexes, accounting for 20% of cancer deaths in women and 22% in men. The risk of dying of cancer was about 32% higher for men than for women.
  • Survival for Irish cancer patients continues to improve. Five-year net survival for patients diagnosed during 2011-2015 averaged 63% for men and 60% for women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), up from 39% in men and 46% in women diagnosed during 1994-1999. Significant survival improvements are evident for most types of cancer.
  • Comparisons with six other high-income countries across three continents, as part of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership’s research, show Ireland has seen the greatest improvements in survival (comparing 2010-2014 with 1995-1999) of any of the seven countries for oesophageal and stomach cancers, the 2nd highest improvement for rectal and lung cancers, the 3rd highest improvement for colon cancer, the 4th highest improvement for ovarian cancer but the 2nd lowest improvement for pancreatic cancer.
  • Reflecting population growth and survival gains, the number of people living with and beyond cancer (cancer prevalence) continues to grow. There were an estimated 180,000 people living after a diagnosis of invasive cancer other than non-melanoma skin cancer at the end of 2017. This figure is equivalent to 3.8% of the Irish population, and is likely to reach 200,000 by 2020. Cancer prevalence was highest for breast cancer (23% of all cancer survivors), prostate cancer (21%), and colorectal cancer (12%).
  • Although survival improvements are largely attributable to improvements in treatment over time, increases in early detection of some cancers, particularly through screening, have also contributed to improved outcomes. A trend towards more favourable stage distribution of cases is evident in the four most common cancer types (colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancer).

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