Statistics and Indicators

Bowel cancer – incidence and mortality

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both males and females. As the greatest risk factor is older age, the number of people in the ACT with bowel cancer is likely to increase as the proportion of older people in our population grows.
  • Bowel cancer can develop insidiously over many years, which can often result in late diagnosis and poor long-term survival; however, when detected early, 90% of cases can be treated successfully. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) was introduced in 2006 to target the screening of Australians aged 50 to 74 years, and recent evidence suggests this is already reducing colorectal cancer deaths.1
  • A number of risk factors can increase a person’s chance of developing bowel cancer. Many of these are modifiable, and include physical inactivity and high body mass.
  • In 2015 there were 188 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in ACT residents (56% in males and 44% in females). The age-standardised incidence rate for the ACT in 2015 was 50.0 cases per 100,000 people (61.5 for males and 40.7 for females) compared to 57.2 cases per 100,000 people for Australia in 2014 (66.9 for males and 48.7 for females). 2
  • Overall, bowel cancer rates have declined from 61.3 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 50.0 per 100,000 people in 2015.
  • In 2014, 58 people (60% males and 40% females) who lived in the ACT at the time of their bowel cancer diagnosis, died from bowel cancer. In 2014 the age-standardised mortality rate for the ACT was 16.0 deaths per 100,000 people (21.1 for males and 11.8 for females) compared to 15.0 deaths per 100,000 people for Australia in 2014 (18.2 for males and 12.3 for females).2 
  • Five-year relative survival for bowel cancer has improved over time from 54% in the period 1983–1992 to 70% for the period 2003–2012 due to enhanced treatment and possibly early diagnosis of symptomatic cases. The recently commenced population screening for bowel cancer will hopefully contribute to further improvements in the years to come.


1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. National Bowel Cancer Screening Program: monitoring report 2018. Cat. no. CAN 112. Canberra: AIHW. 

2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books (Excel spreadsheet).

To access the data please click on the "View source data" link at the bottom of the visualisation. This link will open up a data table that you can download.