Cancer deaths in Malta total around 1,000 annually with the number of persons diagnosed with this disease hovering around 2,500.

Data tabled recently in parliament by Health Minister Jo Etienne Abela in reply to a question from Opposition MP Bernice Bonello shows that since 2007 both deaths as well as the number of cases have been on a gradual but steady rise. While in 2007 there were 1,525 persons diagnosed with cancer in an entire year by 2019 this number had risen to 2,618, with a slight dip in the following year whereby the total stood at 2,382. These figures do not include cases involving patients under 16 years. In the latter case the number of cases remained low at around 15 annually with the number of fatalities oscillating between 1 and 5.

The statistics tabled in parliament cover the period between 2007 to 2021, with figures for the latter years being described as provision as according to the minister they are still being collated, codified, verified and followed-up.

However, according to the World Health Organization in 2022, the number of new cases had risen to an all-time high of 2,855 with the respective number of deaths rising to 1,036. In the case  of males the most common types of cancers diagnosed prostate (18.6%), lung (10.7%), and colorectum (10.5%) with other types totalling 48.8%. On the other hand, breast cancer was the most common cancer diagnosed in Malta among females with 29.1%, followed by colorectum 10.6% and corpus  uteri (6.9%) while other forms of cancer totalled 44.6%.

From a global perspective, in 2022, there were an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths. The estimated number of people who were alive within 5 years following a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million. About 1 in 5 people develop cancer in their lifetime, approximately 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women die from the disease.

Over 35 million new cancer cases are predicted in 2050, a 77% increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022. The rapidly growing global cancer burden reflects both population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development. Tobacco, alcohol and obesity are key factors behind the increasing incidence of cancer, with air pollution still a key driver of environmental risk factors.