Australia and New Zealand lead the world when it comes to cancer diagnosis according to figures just released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO statistics show 9.6 million people worldwide will die of cancer in 2018 with western countries clocking up the highest totals.

The World Health Organisation has ranked 185 countries by the number of confirmed cancer patients per 100,000 of population.

Australia comes through as the outright winner with New Zealand following closely behind. Ireland sits in third place.

Actual data for the top 10 countries are as follows. All numbers are expressed per 100,000 of population.

  1. Australia (468 cases per year)
  2. New Zealand (438.1)
  3. Ireland (373.7)
  4. Hungary (368.1)
  5. United States (352.2)
  6. Belgium (345.8)
  7. France (344.1)
  8. Denmark (340.4)
  9. Norway (337.8)
  10. The Netherlands (334.1)

The ten countries with the lowest cancer rates in the world are:

  1. The Gambia (57.2)
  2. Niger (72.6)
  3. Yemen (76.1)
  4. Republic of Congo (76.9)
  5. Timor-Leste (84.3)
  6. Tajikistan (87.3)
  7. Bhutan (87.8)
  8. Djibouti (87.9)
  9. Sri Lanka (88.1)
  10. Saudi Arabia (88.7)

The UN (United Nations) researchers involved in the study said lung cancer kills the most people, followed by bowel cancer and breast cancer in women.

‘These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play,’ said IARC director Christopher Wild.

Experts said the increase could be partly because of growing populations and ageing, but people could do more to reduce their chance of getting sick.

Dr Etienne Krug, director of WHO’s department of non-communicable diseases said: ‘A lot of those [cancer cases] could be prevented, with key prevention efforts focusing on some of the main risk factors which we have heard about: tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and improper diet.

And Dr Krug added treatment should be advanced enough to help people survive, saying: ‘For those who have cancer, cancer should not be a death sentence anymore.’

Experts say that despite improving treatments and early diagnosis, cancer is still on the rise because people are living longer and making unhealthy life choices.

Eating unhealthy diets with processed foods, not exercising, drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco are all major – but avoidable – causes of cancer.

Overall WHO estimates that between 30 and 50% of cancers are preventable and  the estimated total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was US$1.16 trillion.

Source: World Health Organisation, official release