Cancer in Norway 2011

The annual report the Cancer Registry of Norway for 2011 provides incidence data on different cancers and the latest survival data.

Incidence/Cumulative risk

A total of 29 907 new cancer cases were reported in 2011: 54.1 per cent were among men and 45.9 per cent among women.

The five most common cancer types, in descending order, were in men: prostate, lung, colon, bladder, skin (non-melanoma), and in women: breast, colon, lung, malignant melanoma of the skin and, skin (non-melanoma).

The relative impact of cancers, however, varies considerably by age. Among children (0-14 years of age) cancer in the central nervous system and leukemia were the most common. These represent 57 per cent and 62 per cent of all cancer cases in boys and girls, respectively.

In males aged 15-49 years testicular cancer was the most common cancer, but prostate cancer was most common in middle aged and older men. In females, cancer in the central nervous system was the most common cancer type among 15-24 years old.

Among 25-69 years old breast cancer was most common, and among the oldest women (70+) colon cancer was the most common cancer.

Cancer trends should be interpreted by examining rates over the past several years. This is because there is some random variation in incidence rates from one year to the next. Further, the numbers for the preceding year will always be slightly higher than in the last year’s report due to delayed notification of cancer cases.

The incidence rate for all sites combined has increased by 7 per cent in men and 2 per cent in women from the past five-year period (2002-2006) to the current one (2007-2011).

For the most common cancers in men, the largest incidence increase was observed for malignant melanoma (22 per cent) and cancer of the prostate (19 per cent). On the positive side, the rates for lung, bladder and rectal cancer show a small reduction.

In women the strongest increase occurred in incidence of skin cancer (both for malignant melanoma (13 per cent), non-melanoma (14 per cent) and lung cancer (13 per cent).

For breast cancer the incidence rate for 2011 increased further from 2010, and this year’s increase was in women above 50 years of age. This contrasted to the decrease in breast cancer rates that
occurred from 2005 to 2009.

Only slight changes were observed for colon and rectal cancer.

The probability of developing cancer before the age of 75 is 35 per cent in men and 28 per cent in women.


There were 10 970 deaths from cancer in Norway in 2011. Cancer of the lung, colon, rectum and female breast account for half of the mortality.


This year’s statistics confirm the trend we have seen over a number of years: Survival continues to increase. There is improved survival for almost all cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, colon and rectal cancer.

This long term increase is partially due to improved treatment over time, but for breast and prostate cancer it is also due to screening. Increased attention to cancer in the population as well as among health care providers may also play a role.

Relative survival is the probability of a cancer patient’s survival if other causes of death are excluded. From the period 2002-2006 to 2007-2011 the estimated relative survival increased from:

  • 86 to 89 per cent for breast cancer in women
  • 82 to 90 per cent for prostate cancer
  • 13 to 17 per cent for lung cancer in women
  • 9 to 12 per cent for lung cancer in men
  • 65 to 68 per cent for rectal cancer in women
  • 59 to 65 per cent for rectal cancer in men
  • 58 to 62 per cent for colon cancer in women
  • 56 to 61 per cent for colon cancer in men


At the end of 2011 about 215 000 Norwegians were alive after having had at least one cancer diagnosis at one point in time.