People diagnosed with cancer stand a 58.2 percent chance of surviving for another 10 years, the National Cancer Center has said, citing the results of a major new survey. The survival rate for five years is 63.1 percent.
It is the first time that the 10-year survival rate has been calculated from a large amount of data. The records relate to 35,000 cases collected between 1999 and 2002, and exclude cancer survivors who died of other causes.
The survey showed Tuesday that the 10-year outlook for people with breast cancer and liver cancer is bleaker than for those with stomach cancer.
“The findings showed that cancers such as that of the breast need to be thoroughly checked” even after five years, said Nobuhiro Saruki, former director of the Gunma Prefectural Cancer Center.
Half of the population is expected to get cancer at some point in their lives, and one-third of people will die from it.
The government therefore has its work cut out in achieving a 10-year target to reduce cancer mortality.
Cancer has been Japan’s leading killer since 1981. Out of 1.27 million deaths reported in 2014, roughly 370,000, or 29 percent, were due to cancer.
In 2007, a law was passed requiring the health ministry to set up a council focusing on the problem. In it, the government aimed to reduce mortality from cancer for people aged up to 75 by 20 percent over 10 years, to 73.9 per 100,000 in 2015, from 92.4 in 2005.
However, the National Cancer Center’s projection for 2015 was 76.7 per 100,000 people, a reduction of 17 percent from the 2005 level. This prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to press the health ministry for new approaches to the problem.
In December, the ministry unveiled a new plan that includes more regular health checkups and the development of treatments appropriate to patients’ individual genetic traits.
One of the main factors in the persistently high mortality rate is the nation’s failure to quit smoking. One in five people smoke, and numbers are not falling by any significant amount.
The government had aimed to cut the number of people who smoke to 12 percent by 2015, but the current figure stands at 19 percent.
Some have called for higher tax on tobacco, but the prospects for this remain unclear.
The health promotion law mandates measures by public facilities to prevent the inhalation of second-hand smoke, but it imposes no penalties on violators.
Meanwhile, the latest survey found that the 10-year survival rate for stomach cancer stood at 69 percent, 1.9 percentage points lower than the five-year rate of 70.9 percent.
By contrast, the survival rates for liver cancer fell from 32.2 percent at five years to 15.3 percent at 10 years, while the rates for breast cancer declined from 88.7 percent at five years to 80.4 percent at 10 years.
By degree of disease progression, the five-year survival rate of all types of cancers found at Stage I stood at 90.1 percent and the 10-year rate was 86.3 percent.
But in the case of Stage IV, where cancer has spread to other tissues or organs, the five-year rate is 17.4 percent and the 10-year rate a mere 12.2 percent.
The survey was based on cancer patient data from 16 facilities belonging to the Japanese Association of Clinical Cancer Centers.