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What is a Rare Cancer

For a cancer to be rare, means that it occurs in fewer than 6 per 100,000 people per year.

Common cancers occur in more than 12 per 100,000 people per year. In Australia, common cancers are breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer.

Less common cancers occur in between 6 and 12 per 100,000 people per year. Less common cancers include stomach cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and brain cancer.

There are many different types of rare cancers but only a small number of people are diagnosed with each type. Some examples include bone cancer, mesothelioma, eye cancer, cancer of the nose and sinuses, and unusual subtypes of more common cancers. You may not have heard of many rare cancers.

In 2015, around 1 in 3 Australians diagnosed with cancer had a rare or less common cancer. That same year, rare and less common cancers accounted for a disproportionately high 1 in 2 cancer-related deaths.

Incidence by Cancer Rarity in Australia

Source: AIHW ACD 2015

18% Rare cancers

23,799 people

17% Less common cancers

11,143 people

65% Common cancers

85,382 people

Challenges for rare cancers