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Medical technologists preparing sections of biopsy samples at the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Toronto General Hospital.

Fred Lum/FRED LUM/ GLOBE AND MAIL

Canadians diagnosed with cancer are generally living longer, Statistics Canada says.

Five-year survival rates for several cancers have increased since the early 1990s, a finding Statscan said could be because of earlier diagnosis and improvements in treatment.

"Statistics derived from an entire population's cancer survival experience provide a useful indicator of the disease's burden," the study says.

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The five-year survival rate for all cancers combined was 62 per cent for patients diagnosed between 2004 to 2006. The ten-year rate was 58 per cent.

For example, Statistics Canada said the five-year survival rate for people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma rose to 63 per cent for those diagnosed in 2004 to 2006, up from 51 per cent for those diagnosed between 1992 and 1994. The five-year ratio for people with leukemia rose to 54 per cent from 44 per cent while the survival rate nearly doubled for those with liver cancer, to 17 per cent from 9 per cent.

Some cancers are far more lethal than others. The five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is just 6 per cent compared to 98 per cent for those with thyroid cancer.

Cancers with high survival rates are prostate cancer (96 per cent), testicular cancer (95 per cent), skin melanoma (89 per cent) and breast cancer (88 per cent).

In addition to pancreatic cancer, those that have the lowest prognoses are esophageal cancer (13 per cent) and lung and bronchial cancers (16 per cent).

For cancers with moderate to poor prognoses, Statistics Canada said the probability of dying was usually highest in the time shortly after diagnosis.

As well, the national statistics agency noted that younger patients have higher survival rates than older people. For example, those aged 15 to 44 who have brain cancer have a five-year survival rate of 58 per cent compared to just 9 per cent for people aged 65 to 74.

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Statscan said average survival times do not necessarily reflect an individual's prognosis because of the role of individual factors, such as frailty, co-morbidity, stage of disease at detection, treatment and response to treatment.

Statscan studied cancer rates using records from the Canadian Cancer Registry linked to the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database.

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