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National report confirms incidence of blood cancer continues to rise in Australia

Wednesday June 9, 2021

  • Over 50 Australians to be diagnosed every day in 2021, new report confirms
  • Blood cancers combined cemented as Australia’s second most diagnosed cancer and second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country
  • Early detection, better blood cancer understanding and movement on National Strategic Action Plan critical to reduce lives lost

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Cancer Data in Australia 2021 report, released this week, confirms more than 50 Australians will be diagnosed with a blood cancer every day this year, an increase from 47 people daily in 2020. The report also cements the status of blood cancers combined as Australia’s second most diagnosed cancer and second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.

The report revealed incidence rates for cancers overall have stabilised since 2009, however blood cancer is bucking the trend, rising from 12,294 Australians diagnosed with the disease annually in 2009 to 18,485 expected to be diagnosed in 2021.

“While overall cancer incidence rates in Australia have been levelling out thanks to the introduction of national screening programs, improved early detection and improved treatments, unfortunately blood cancer incidence rates have risen by more than 50% since 2009,” Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said.

“Unlike other cancers, blood cancer can develop in anyone at any stage of life – there are no screening programs to detect it, there’s no way to prevent it through lifestyle change and in many cases blood cancer symptoms can be mistaken for infections like the flu and this can result in a delayed diagnosis.

“This is all a stark contrast to cancers that originate in a particular organ or area of the body as a solid mass which have national screening and detection campaigns in place, and as this report shows, that early diagnosis has been key to driving down mortality for these cancers over time.”

Mr Tanti said for the 15 Australians who lose their life to blood cancer every day, there was more work to be done.

“These numbers truly reinforce the critical importance of organisations like the Leukaemia Foundation and groups like the Blood Cancer Taskforce which are uniting the national blood cancer community to build awareness and improve understanding of blood cancer, ensure earlier detection and deliver better treatment options that will ultimately change and save lives,” he said.

“Australia now has a National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer which maps a clear path to improve outcomes for people living with blood cancer and their families by catalysing health system reform, accelerating research, enabling access to novel and specialised therapies and empowering patients. If we are serious about achieving the blood cancer community’s shared vision of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035, we need urgent and real action on this plan today.

“This report clearly shows movement on the National Action Plan – together with the Leukaemia Foundation’s work to break down barriers to accessing the right treatment, supportive care, education and information about blood cancer at the right time, wherever you live – has never been more vital.”

Mr Tanti urged all Australians not to postpone trips to their doctor and to address any health concerns immediately, or if you have any questions about blood cancer, to contact the Leukaemia Foundation.

To access the full Cancer Data in Australia 2021 report, visit

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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.
Australia’s most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2021, persons, all ages. Australia’s most common cause of cancer-related death in 2021, persons, all ages
1.        Breast cancer 20,030 1.        Lung cancer 8,693
2.      Blood cancers combined 18,485 2.     Blood cancers combined 5,789
3.       Prostate cancer 18,110 3.       Colorectal cancer 5,295
4.       Melanoma of the skin 16,878 4.       Pancreas cancer 3,391
5.       Colorectal cancer 15,540 5.       Prostate cancer 3,323
Source: AIHW Cancer data in Australia report

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.