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Overview of Cancer Statistics in Hong Kong

  1. Cancer is one of the major non-communicable diseases ("NCD") in Hong Kong. The cancer incidence has been on a rising trend, increasing at an average rate of about 3.6% per annum in the past decade. A total of 38 462 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Hong Kong in 2021, which shows an increase of 4 283 cases or a rise of 12.5% compared to 2020. On average, 105 people were diagnosed with cancer each day.
  2. A total of 18 943 cancers were newly diagnosed in males and 19 519 in females in 2021. The numbers increased by 2 240 (or 13.4%) for males and by 2 043 (or 11.7%) for females compared to 2020. The crude annual incidence rates of cancer per 100 000 men and women were 560 and 484 respectively in 2021.
  3. Women surpassed men in the number of new cancer cases for two consecutive years, with a ratio of 103 women per 100 men.
  4. The five most frequently diagnosed cancers for both genders combined in 2021 were lung cancer (5 978 cases, 15.5%), colorectal cancer (5 899 cases, 15.3%), breast cancer (5 592 cases, 14.5%), prostate cancer (3 038 cases, 7.9%) and liver cancer (1 771 cases, 4.6%). These five leading cancers accounted for over half (57.9%) of all new cancer cases (Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Five leading diagnoses of new cancer cases, 2021

    Five leading diagnoses of new cancer cases, 2021
  5. Cancer is primarily a disease of older people. In 2021, more than half of cancers occurred in people aged 65 or above, while only a mere 0.5% of cancers was diagnosed in children and adolescents (i.e. aged 0-19 years).
  6. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Hong Kong. In 2021, cancer claimed 15 108 lives, accounting for about one-third of all deaths in the local population. Among all cancers, lung cancer (4 037 deaths, 26.7%), colorectal cancer (2 298 deaths, 15.2%) and liver cancer (1 447 deaths, 9.6%) topped the list, making up 51.5% of all cancer deaths (Figure 2). Pancreatic cancer (889 deaths, 5.9%) and breast cancer (795 deaths, 5.3%) are the fourth and fifth most common causes of cancer deaths respectively.

    Figure 2. Five leading causes of registered cancer deaths, 2021

    Five leading causes of registered cancer deaths, 2021
  7. The majority of cancer patients are elderly. More than two-thirds of newly diagnosed cancers in 2021 and 83% of cancer deaths in 2021 were related to persons aged 60 or above. The median age at diagnosis of cancer in 2021 was 69 years for males and 63 years for females. The median age at death due to cancer was 72 years for males and 73 years for females in 2021.
  8. A person's risk of developing or dying from cancer is age-dependent. Based on the statistics from 2021, about 1 in 4 men and 1 in 4 women will develop cancer before the age of 75.
  9. While the number of new cancer cases has continued to increase largely as a result of a growing and ageing population, the age-standardised cancer incidence rate for men has levelled off, with an increasing trend observed for women in the past ten years or so (Figure 3).
  10. Both the age-standardised mortality rates for men and for women have been declining during the last three decades (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of all cancers by gender

Age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of all cancers by gender