How Many Types of Cancer Are There?

Most people in Australia will be impacted by cancer either through a personal diagnosis or by family and friends being touched by this disease. We stand united with our incredible supporters in the understanding that by funding world-class research into this disease one day a world without cancer will be our reality. 

Today we answer some frequently asked questions about cancer, to bring more understanding to this complex disease. 

What is cancer? 

Cancer is when cells grow in an abnormal way and multiply uncontrollably, invading healthy tissue.

The body has natural systems to prevent the growth of cancerous cells by either repairing the damage to the DNA or forcing the cell to die, if the damage is too great. Cancer occurs when these inbuilt defence mechanisms fail.

How many different types of cancer are there? 

There are more than 200 different types of cancer

Cancerous cells can grow abnormally in blood or form masses called tumours. Some tumours are benign – meaning they can’t spread and therefore aren’t cancerous.

Malignant tumours, which are cancerous, are collections of abnormal cells that do spread and invade healthy tissue. 

What are the most common types of cancer? 

In 2020, Breast Cancer was the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in Australia. This was followed by Prostate Cancer, Melanoma of the Skin, Colorectal also known as Bowel Cancer and Lung Cancer

Here’s more about the 5 most common types of cancer:

Breast Cancer: In patients with Breast Cancer, abnormal cells develop in the breast and form tumours which invade the surrounding breast tissue. Breast cancer can occur in both males and females, though male breast cancer accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancer cases.

Prostate Cancer: Prostate Cancer begins with small changes or abnormalities in the shape and size of the prostate gland cells. Eventually, these cells form tumours.

Melanoma of the Skin: Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes. 

The most common locations for Melanomas are chest and back for men, and legs for women. 

Bowel Cancer: Bowel Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the wall of the large intestine grow in an uncontrolled way. Bowel Cancer refers to any cancer that starts in the large intestine. It is also referred to as; Colon Cancer, Rectal Cancer or Colorectal Cancer – depending on where it is found in the intestine.

Lung Cancer: In patients with Lung Cancer, abnormal cells develop in one or both lungs and grow in an uncontrolled way to form tumours. These tumours can affect how the lungs usually work, which is to supply oxygen to the body through the bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide from the body.
At Australian Cancer Research Foundation, we fund life-saving research into all types of cancer, all across Australia. 

Rare types of cancer 

In Australia, a rare cancer is defined as one which has fewer than 6 diagnoses per 100,000 of the population. The rarity of these cancers mean research is limited, and so are the treatment options. 

For example, compared with adult cancers, childhood cancers are rare and there are a number of very rare types which account for around 20-25% of all childhood cancers. These include children’s liver tumours (like Hepatoblastoma and  Hepatocellular carcinoma) and other rare childhood cancers like cancers of the digestive system, the thyroid, and the adrenal gland.

As a consequence of limited research and treatment options, patients diagnosed with rare cancers can face significant challenges due to the unknown nature of these diseases. 

Help ACRF Fundraise for Cancer Research 

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, every day researchers are working tirelessly on better ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer. If you would like to donate today to help bring us closer to a world without cancer, we would greatly appreciate it. Make your donation here.