Cancer is a widespread disease group that affects many, either directly or indirectly as relatives.
Before the age of 75, one in three Norwegians has been diagnosed with at least one cancer diagnosis, and in the entire population there are now almost 300,000 people with cancer in their medical history (316.145 people as of December 31. 2021).
Cancer survivors are continually increasing
Today, nearly three out of four people survive cancer for five years or longer.
In the period from 2017 to 2021, the relative survival of five years was a total of 77,1 per cent for men and 76,3 per cent among women.
Although more and more people get cancer, there is also an increase in those who become fully recovered, and many of the people with cancer live longer and have a higher quality of life than earlier. This is due to a combination of prevention, earlier diagnosis, and an increase, improvement and adaption of methods of treatment for the various types of cancer.
For some cancers, this has led to nearly everyone surviving, and even those with advanced disease in these groups have good survival prospects.
For other cancers, however, there have been few therapeutic breakthroughs. When it comes to cancers such as pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and liver cancer, it is still the case that only a small proportion of those who become ill survive.
The increase in the number of new cancer cases is relatively small
There were 36.998 new cancer cases in 2021. A certain increase in the number of cancer cases is expected, both because the Norwegian population is growing and because the population is getting older.
Prostate cancer is still the most common cancer and accounts for around 14 per cent of all cancer cases in Norway. Prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer, which are the four most common cancers, together accounted for about 43% of all cancers in Norway. This corresponds to approximately 16.000 cancers.
There are three times as many cases of cancer diagnosed now than 50 years ago, and more men than women are getting cancer.
The most common cancers
The diagrams below show which cancers are most common in the Norwegian population, for women and men, respectively. For women, lung, colorectal and breast cancer are the three most common cancers. For men, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers are the most common.
Diagram: The most common cancers (%) for women in the period 2017-2021
Diagram: The most common cancers (%) for men in the period 2017-2021
Cancer affects mostly the elder
Cancer affects mostly the elder. Three out of four diagnosed cancer cases are men and women over the age of 60. In Norway, therefore, a significant part of the sharp increase in number of cancer cases over the last 50 years is due to the fact that we have become more numerous, live longer than before, and that an increasing proportion of the population is older.
For some cancers, the incidence has decreased. This applies, for example, to cervical cancer, where the diagnosis and treatment of precursors has led to a reduction in people getting this disease.
Demonstration of the link between stomach cancer and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is also an important cause of stomach ulcers, has led to new preventive treatment, and stomach cancer has gone from being a relatively common type of cancer to becoming a disease that now affects relatively few.
Lifestyle choices can also lead to cancer
Some cancers can be caused by lifestyle. Tobacco use has led to a sharp increase in the number of lung cancer cases. This type of cancer can develop slowly over time, so even though many people have stopped smoking and the number of smokers is declining, this disease still affects many, and will continue to do so in the coming years.
Factors such as diet and/or obesity, lack of physical activity and alcohol are also behind a significant number of cancer cases.
More than 300,000 Norwegians have or have had cancer
The fact that more people are recovering from cancer and that those who have cancer are living longer with their disease means that the number of "cancer survivors" has increased sharply.
At the end of 2021 there were 316.145 men and women in Norway who have had cancer or were currently living with their cancer. This was over 100,000 more than 10 years earlier.
The high number of cancer survivors results in more people living with late effects from cancer treatment, and that the amount of people who become totally or partially disabled after cancer increases.
Furthermore, the fact that chronically ill cancer patients are living longer and longer will lead to increasing burdens, both for the primary and specialist health services.
10.981 died of cancer in 2020
Despite the fact that more and more people are surviving, it is still the case that a significant number dies of cancer each year. More than 11.000 Norwegians died of cancer in 2020.
Cancer of the lung, colon and rectum, prostate, and breast cancer among women accounted for half of all deaths due to cancer in 2020.
In addition, a significant number of deaths are caused by pancreatic cancer. Although this is not among the most common cancers, with around 900 cases a year, this cancer has a very poor prognosis and many die quickly after diagnosis.
Fact sheets about cancer
The following six cancers accounted for the majority of all cancer cases in 2021. This amounts to over 55 percent of cancer incidence in Norway.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Norway.
Lung cancer is one of the cancers that are easiest to prevent.
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the bladder neck gland in men that sits just below the bladder. It is the most frequent type of cancer in Norway.
Norway has one of the world's highest incidence of colorectal cancer.
The incidence of melanoma has increased significantly among men and women in Norway and internationally in the post-war period.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third largest type of cancer affecting women.
Cancer statistics for Norway
In the Cancer Registry's annual report Cancer in Norway, you will find information on incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival of cancer in Norway. Latest figures are from 2021.
- The Cancer Registry of Norway’s online statistics
The Cancer Registry of Norway's online statistics contains the incidence of cancer (occurrence of new cases of cancer) in Norway up to and including the last available diagnostic year. It is possible to generate incidence statistics by diagnosis, gender, age, periods and geographical units like county and regional health trusts.
Visit our Statistics bank here
- Clinical Registries for cancer
Clinical registries – comprehensive registration schemes dedicated to specific cancers – shall contribute to strengthening the quality of the health care provided to the patient groups. The Clinical Registries shall also operate, promote and provide a basis for research to develop new knowledge about the causes of cancer, diagnosis and course of the disease, as well as treatment effects.
Read more about the Clinical Registries here
- Cancer statistics for the Nordic countries
In NORDCAN you will find information on incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival for the 41 most common cancers in the Nordic countries.
- Statistics for the world
The World Health Organization's special agency, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), publishes estimates of incidence and mortality of the most common cancers in all countries in the world.
What is cancer?
Benign tumors consist of normal cells and are not characterized as cancer. They are usually delimited by normal tissue and will stop growing after a while. Malignant tumors on the other hand will continue to grow, and may eventually cause serious damage to nearby tissues and organs.
Cancer may also spread to other areas of the body by transporting loose cancer cells around the body in the blood and lymphatic system. These cells can then settle in completely different parts of the body and spread the cancer (metastases). In most such cases, the patient will eventually die of their cancer.
Recent research has shown that what is now perceived as one type of cancer should often rather be classified as several diseases on the basis of different incidence, growth pattern, and prognosis. This applies, for example, to breast cancer.
Questions about cancer
The Cancer Registry of Norway is a research institution. Our specialists therefore do not answer questions about diagnosis, assessment, treatment and follow-up of patients or their relatives.
Questions regarding this should be directed to your general practitioner (fastlege), treating institution or call the Norwegian Cancer Society’s counselling service Kreftlinjen (the Cancer Helpline) tlf: 800 57 338 (800 KREFT)