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More Australians with blood cancer reliant on blood donations than ever before

Monday June 14, 2021

  • Rising blood cancer incidence rates will leave more Australians reliant on blood donations to save their life
  • One third of all red cell blood donations in country used to treat cancer, blood diseases
  • Call for 13 million potential donors to consider rolling up sleeves to support blood cancer patients

With more Australians than ever before expected to be relying on blood donations to manage their diagnosis this year, the Leukaemia Foundation is marking this National Blood Donor Week (14-20 June) and today’s World Blood Donor Day (14 June) by calling on the national community to roll up their sleeves.

With the latest cancer data report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirming more than 50 Australians will be diagnosed with blood cancer every day in 2021[1], up from 47 in 2020, Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti is spotlighting the crucial role blood donations continue to play in treating the growing number of people diagnosed with blood cancer now and into the future.

“More than 110,000 Australians are currently affected by blood cancer, and many require regular donated blood products to manage their cancer, either as part of a life-saving treatment plan or to counter the side effects caused by the cancer itself or its treatment,” he said.

“By 2035, we’ve projected there will be 275,000 Australians living with a blood cancer diagnosis[2], which means by then we could need more than double the number of blood donations available to treat these vulnerable members of our community.”

It’s a common misconception among Australians who don’t give blood that road trauma is the leading cause of a person needing donated blood, despite this cause accounting for just two per cent of Australia’s total red blood cell usage – compared to a huge 34 per cent of red blood cell donations, or about one third of all donations nationally, being used to help treat people with cancer and blood diseases.

One 470ml blood donation unit includes red cells, plasma and platelets which are all separated out after donation. On average, one acute leukaemia patient needs nine units (2.25 litres) of red cells every month, or 36 units (just over one litre) of platelets each month – and they could need both of these products for the duration of their diagnosis, which can last anywhere from eight months on average through to years.

“Just over 3.5% of Australians donate blood, and that means there could be more than 13 million Australians who may be able to donate, but don’t. The reality is if 18 of these Australians signed up today to become a monthly blood donor, that would be enough donated blood to treat just one person diagnosed with blood cancer, so we really are relying on everyday Australians to lend the blood cancer community a helping arm as often as they can,” Mr Tanti said.

“This National Blood Donor Week, if you’re eligible, consider giving blood with the knowledge you are potentially offering an invaluable lifeline to one of the growing number of Australian women, men and children living with blood cancer reliant on this precious resource.”

If you’re 18-75 years old, healthy and weigh over 50kg, you may be able to give blood. Visit to see if you’re eligible or to make an appointment.

For more information about blood cancer and to learn more about Australians living with blood cancer and blood disorders who your donation could help support, visit

National Blood Donor Week runs from 14-20 June, including World Blood Donor Day on 14 June.

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Blood cancer in Australia facts and figures:

  • It is expected that 18,485 Australians will be newly diagnosed with blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma in 2021. This is equivalent to over 50 people per day or one person every 28 minutes.
  • Incidence of blood cancer continues to grow. Incidence of blood cancer has increased by 40% in the past 10 years, or 50% since 2009.
  • When combined, blood cancers are the second most diagnosed cancers in Australia, and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
  • More than 110,000 people are living with a blood cancer or blood disorder in Australia today. By 2035, more than 275,000 Australians are expected to be living with a blood cancer or blood disorder (ref).
  • Over 5,700 people in Australia are expected to lose their life to blood cancer or related blood disorders this year. This is equivalent to 15 people per day.
  • Blood cancer continues to remain the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancer (0-14 years) accounting for over 45% of all diagnoses.

Blood cancer signs and symptoms:
Symptoms of all blood cancers can sometimes be subtle or even similar to other conditions, such as a flu. However, ongoing symptoms like recurrent infections, increased fatigue, night sweats, bone pain, bruising or enlarged lymph nodes should be immediately discussed with your GP or specialist. Early diagnosis can play a key role in surviving blood cancer, so it is crucially important that you are examined and treated properly. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with a blood cancer, reach out to the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 620 420. Accessing our support is free of charge.