Canada ranks highly in cancer survival

International study shows Canada among top countries in survival rates

TORONTO – Canadians with lung, breast, colorectal or ovarian cancer have a higher rate of survival than people diagnosed with these cancers in the United Kingdom, Denmark or Norway, a new international study has found.

The study, published today in The Lancet medical journal, is an initiative of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), an international partnership of clinicians, academics and policymakers seeking to understand how and why cancer survival varies between countries. As its first area of focus, the ICBP explored survival rates for four cancers – lung, breast, colorectal and ovarian – in six developed countries.

Based on the voluntary participation of four Canadian provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario – the study data show that Canada’s survival rates for these four cancers are among the highest, along with Australia and Sweden, of six countries that also include Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The study is based on population data for 2.4 million adults diagnosed with colorectal, lung, breast or ovarian cancer between 1995 and 2007. Countries were invited to take part in the study based on comparable wealth, universal access to healthcare and the nature of cancer data available.

“Overall, Canada is performing well internationally when it comes to cancer survival – and the survival rates for all participating countries show improvement over time,” said Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President of Cancer Control at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and a senior author of the study. “Canada will continue to contribute and learn from international data as this study continues, while also working within our own borders to reduce cancer’s significant burden on our population, our health system and our economy: 174,000 cancer diagnoses and 76,000 cancer deaths every year is still very high.”

“The provinces in this study have organized approaches and systems to provide their citizens with world-class cancer care,” said Dr. Terry Sullivan, President and CEO of Cancer Care Ontario and a member of the study’s International Programme Board. “Having both an interprovincial context and international comparisons allows us to understand our strengths and gaps, and to focus our improvement efforts. The international benchmarking findings are heartening for Canada, and a reminder to continue to strive for optimal care.”

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and provincial cancer agencies are among the many organizations involved in a national cancer strategy. Such strategies exist in several countries to bring a coordinated approach to reducing the impact of cancer on their populations.

Canada’s national cancer control strategy was funded by the federal government in 2006, and the Partnership opened its doors in 2007 to begin implementing it. Working with partners across the country – many of whom were instrumental in developing the cancer strategy – the Partnership is helping to improve the consistency and coordination of the cancer system across Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories.

One example of the Partnership’s collaborative work with Canada’s cancer community is the System Performance Initiative, which collects cancer data from a number of sources – including Statistics Canada and provincial cancer organizations – to provide a series of snapshots about the performance of Canada’s national cancer control system across a range of areas like prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment. Two system performance reports have been released to date, and findings will be deepened over the next year through ongoing collaboration.

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is an independent organization funded by the federal government to accelerate action on cancer control for all Canadians. Bringing together cancer experts, government representatives, the Canadian Cancer Society and cancer patients, survivors and their families through the Canadian Cancer Action Network to implement the first pan-Canadian cancer-control strategy, the vision is to be a driving force to achieve a focused approach that will help prevent cancer, enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer, lessen the likelihood of dying from cancer, and increase the efficiency of cancer control in Canada. For more information about the Partnership and Canada’s cancer control strategy, visit The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is also the driving force behind, an online community linking Canadians to cancer information, services and resources.