So you've bought a ribbon to fight breast or prostate cancer. But if you want to do the most to save lives, you should be going on a walk-a-thon for colon cancer or putting money in the tin for rectal cancer.
from the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week shows a clear disconnect between the types of cancers that get the media attention and donations -- breast, prostate, skin -- and the cancers that are killing the most Australians.
The ABS looks at the causes of death for 2012, a year in which 147,000 Australians died. Here are the top 10 causes (with the cancers in bold):
- Heart disease (angina, heart attacks)
- Diseases of the brain and its blood vessels (haemorrhage, stroke)
- Dementia / Alzheimer's
- Lung cancer
- Respiratory disease
- Colon, rectum and anus cancer
- Blood / lymph cancer (mainly leukaemia)
- Diseases of urinary system
- Heart failure
Two of the most high-profile cancers -- breast and prostate -- are not in the top 10. Both are significant killers, and the fact that each disease primarily affects one sex (a small number of men do get breast cancer) helps explain why they're not the biggest killers overall. But this data raises uncomfortable questions around whether there's a disproportionate focus on certain cancers, while "yucky" cancers -- or cancers where we blame the victims -- miss out.
Here's how the number of deaths from different cancers
Australia's biggest cancer killers