10 Important Cancer Statistics in Singapore (Updated 2021)

Have you tried to search for statistics on cancer in Singapore?

You’ll realise that they are all over the place.

So this page is meant to compile all the important data, trends and statistics on cancer in Singapore. And it’ll be constantly updated to reflect the latest information.

Here are some of the statistics we’ve included:

  • likelihood of getting cancer
  • what are the most common cancers for men and women
  • cost of cancer treatments
  • survival rates
  • etc

So, read on!

Table Of Contents

A Primer on Cancer

Here’s a quick overview of what cancer is:

Your body is made up of living cells which can grow, divide, die and get replaced by new cells. This process happens in a natural and organised way. However, that process may break down and cause cancer to develop.

The old cells do not die but grow uncontrollably, forming new and abnormal cells. These extra cells may then form tumour – a mass of tissue.

It is important to detect cancer at its earlier stage (through regular screenings) as the chances of survival will be higher and the costs to treat it will be lower.

There are various ways to treat cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common ones.

Even so, there’s no guarantee of a cure as a recurrence can still happen.

So that’s a quick overview.

Let’s look at some statistics on cancer in Singapore.

1) Cancer Accounts for 28.4% of All Deaths in Singapore

In 2019, Singapore had a population of 4,026,209 residents (Citizens and Permanent Residents).

From this pool of people, how many deaths happened?

There were a total of 20,288 resident deaths in 2019 equating to a crude death rate of about 5 deaths per thousand residents.

How many deaths were due to cancer?

Here are the causes of death:

top causes of death in singapore
top causes of death in singapore
CausePercentage of Deaths
Cancer28.4%
Pneumonia20.7%
Ischaemic heart diseases18.8%
Cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke)5.8%
External causes of morbidity and mortality4.0%
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome & nephrosis3.1%
Hypertensive diseases (including hypertensive heart disease)2.6%
Urinary tract infection2.3%
Other heart diseases2.0%
Chronic obstructive lung disease1.4%

As you can see, cancer accounted for 28.40% of deaths and is the number 1 cause of death in Singapore. It also means that cancer caused about 1 in every 3 deaths.

Roughly 15 Singaporeans are dying every single day because of cancer, making it an important death statistic.

Furthermore, we did a study on 36 months of life insurance claims and here are 2 interesting findings:

Firstly, cancer is the cause for most of the death claims – 39.67%.

causes of all death claims

And it’s also the cause for most of the critical illness claims – 73.17%.

causes of all critical illness claims

2) Cancer Cases (and Rates) Are on the Rise in Singapore

Knowing that cancer has a high fatality rate, we don’t want it in our books.

While there are various ways to reduce the chances of contracting cancer, how common is it now?

One way to find out is to calculate the cancer rate or cancer incidence rate – only the new cases.

Here’s the number of cancer diagnoses from 1968 to 2017:

number of cancer cases singapore

The number of cancer cases increased nearly 6 times from 12,072 in 1968-1972 to 71,265 in 2013-2017.

This meant that an average of 14,253 cancer diagnoses are reported every year, equating to around 39 Singaporeans being diagnosed with cancer every single day.

But we still need to take the population into account.

Here are the crude incidence rates (per 100,000 population):

crude cancer incidence rate singapore

Even when we take into account the population, the crude incidence rate has been rising also. In 2013-2017, the crude incidence rate was 365.1 per 100,000 population as opposed to just 120.3 in 1968-1972. An increase of 203.49%.

However, as Singapore has an ageing population, it influences the crude incidence rate.

So, we should also look at the age-standardised incidence rates:

age standardised cancer incidence rate singapore

Even if we factor in the ageing population in Singapore, the age-standardised cancer incidence rate is also rising. In 2013-2017, it was at 229.6 per 100,000 population.

Overall, as the total number of cancer diagnoses, crude incidence rate and age-standardised incidence rate are on an upwards trend, cancer is a growing health concern in Singapore.

PeriodNumberCrude Incidence RateAge-Standardised Incidence Rate
1968-197212072120.3188.7
1973-197714739139.1200.6
1978-198218116158.6210.2
1983-198721745175.3210.5
1988-199226394193.7211.6
1993-199731978212.2213.2
1998-200238908237.3216.5
2003-200746019265.2217.6
2008-201257243305.2221.3
2013-201771265365.1229.6

3) 1 in 4 to 5 Singaporeans Are Expected to Get Cancer By Age 75

In my opinion, the actual figures (number of cancer diagnoses, crude incidence rate and age-standardised incidence rate) could be higher because only diagnosed cases are recorded (after screenings or check-ups).

What about those that didn’t go for check-ups? They might not even know they have cancer and it can go undetected until it’s too late.

But eventually, complications will arise leading to a detection, and that brings us to the next statistic.

The lifetime risk of cancer is 1 for every 4 to 5 people in Singapore.

lifetime risk of cancer in singapore

And to break it down even further..

The odds of men and women in Singapore developing cancer by age 75 is 22.66% and 22.03%, respectively.

probability of getting cancer for men and women

These figures could be a cause for concern for all Singaporeans.

To reduce the occurrence of cancer, one may want to have a proper diet, engage in physical activities, make lifestyle changes and stop smoking.

4) Singapore’s Cancer Rate Is Ranked 42 in the World

If our cancer rate seems high to you, how does it compare to other countries?

Well, Singapore is ranked 42 for the highest cancer rates globally.

RankCountryAge-standardised rate per 100,000
1Australia468.0
2New Zealand438.1
3Ireland373.7
4Hungary368.1
5US352.2
6Belgium345.8
7France (metropolitan)344.1
8Denmark340.4
9Norway337.8
10Netherlands334.1
11Canada334.0
12New Caledonia (France)324.2
13UK319.2
14South Korea313.5
15Germany313.1
16Switzerland311.0
17Luxembourg309.3
18Serbia307.9
19Slovenia304.9
20Latvia302.2
21Slovakia297.5
22Czech Republic296.7
23Sweden294.7
24Italy290.6
25Croatia287.2
26Lithuania285.8
27Estonia283.3
28Greece279.8
29Spain272.3
30Finland266.2
31Uruguay263.4
32Belarus260.7
33Portugal259.5
34Iceland257.8
35Guadelopue (France)254.6
36Puerto Rico254.5
37Moldova254.3
38Poland253.8
39Cyprus250.8
40Martinique (France)250.8
41Malta249.4
42Singapore248.9
43Japan248.0
44Austria247.7
45Barbados247.5
46French Guiana247.0
47Bulgaria242.8
48Lebanon242.8
49French Polynesia240.6
50Israel233.6

The data shows that the age-standardised cancer rate is 248.9 for every 100,000 (both sexes) in Singapore.

In comparison, the country with the highest cancer rate is Australia with a rate of 468. And the top 10 countries come from Oceania, Europe and North America.

5) The Top 10 Most Common Cancers in Singapore for Men and Women

Men and women experience cancer in different ways.

Here are the most common cancers affecting men and women:

common cancers affect men and women in singapore

Here are the top 10 most common cancers for men:

Type of CancerNo. of Cases (2013-2017)Percentage
Colo-rectum5,79916.8%
Lung4,99214.5%
Prostate4,85314%
Liver & intrahepatic bile ducts2,7057.9%
Lymphoid Neoplasms2,2596.6%
Non-melanoma skin1,8665.4%
Stomach1,5514.5%
Kidney & other urinary organs1,3814.0%
Myeloid Neoplasms1,1343.3%
Nasopharynx1,0793.1%

As you can see, the top cancer for men is Colo-rectum cancer at 16.8%, and just following closely behind are Lung cancer and Prostate cancer at 14.5% and 14% respectively.

Here are the top 10 most common cancers for women:

Type of CancerNo. of Cases (2013-2017)Percentage
Breast10,82429.4%
Colo-rectum4,83513.1%
Lung2,7887.6%
Corpus uteri2,6107.0%
Ovary & fallopian tube1,8745.1%
Lymphoid Neoplasms1,7254.7%
Non-melanoma skin1,5074.1%
Thyroid1,4263.9%
Stomach1,1473.2%
Cervix uteri1,0772.9%

From the data, the top cancer for women is Breast cancer at 29.4%. It’s more common compared to the rest by a huge margin.

6) Men Are More Likely to Develop Cancer (or Is It?)

Throughout the years, it is widely known that men have a higher probability to get cancer.

Here’s the graph to show the age-standardised cancer rates for both men and women:

men and women cancer rates
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

In the earlier years, the gap was huge. But now, cancer rates for females are catching up fast. Males still seem to have a slightly higher chance to develop cancer than females.

However, if we were to look at the number of cancers diagnosed for men and women over the years:

PeriodGenderNumber of cases%
1968-1972Male698557.9
Female508742.1
Total12072100
1973-1977Male855358.0
Female618642.0
Total14739100
1978-1982Male1012455.9
Female799244.1
Total18116100
1983-1987Male1167853.7
Female1006746.3
Total21745100
1988-1992Male1363351.7
Female1276148.3
Total26394100
1993-1997Male1623250.8
Female1574649.2
Total31978100
1998-2002Male1904849.0
Female1986051.0
Total38908100
2003-2007Male2240448.7
Female2361551.3
Total46019100
2008-2012Male2793748.8
Female2930651.2
Total57243100
2013-2017Male3446148.4
Female3680451.6
Total71265100

Cancer diagnoses for females have already surpassed males from 1998-2002 onwards. But this could be partly due to females forming a slight majority in the population.

how many cancer cases from males and females singapore

So it depends on which data you’re looking at.

But these are the facts:

  • Age-standardised incidence rates for females are increasing fast and is only marginally lower than males
  • Crude incidence rates for females have already surpassed males

How would this play out in the future? Only time will tell.

7) Chinese in Singapore Accounted for 82.5% of All Cancer Cases

There are 3 major ethnic groups in Singapore: Chinese, Malays and Indians.

This is the breakdown of the population in 2017:

Ethnic Group%
Chinese74.3
Malays13.4
Indians9
Others3.2

So the question is would cancer rates stay the same for everyone or would one’s ethnicity – eating habits, lifestyle, etc – have an impact?

Here are the cancer rates broken down by ethnicity:

cancer rates by ethnicity
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

Here are the cancer diagnoses broken down by ethnicity from 2013 to 2017:

Ethnic GroupNumber%
Chinese5880482.5
Malay69559.8
Indian35835
Total71265100

As the Chinese form the majority of the population, they’re likely to account for the majority of cancer cases.

But from this data, it’s seems to be disproportionate.

The Chinese people seem to have an even greater probability of contracting cancer compared to the rest of the ethnicity groups in Singapore.

8) The Cost of Treating Cancer Can Be $100,000 to $200,000 per Year

In Singapore, the medical inflation rate is at 10% per year. So this means that the cost of hospitalisation and medical treatments are increasing at a fast pace.

If in the event one does develop cancer, what are the options?

Cancer treatments are available. But they are most effective when the diagnosed cancer is at an earlier stage.

At later stages, the effectiveness of cancer treatments are lower and the costs will be higher.

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common types of cancer treatments. And a combination of these treatments is usually recommended.

For later-stage cancer, the costs can easily run up to $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

average cost of cancer treatment singapore

Fortunately, there are various ways to finance the cost of these cancer treatments.

9) Women Are More Likely to Survive From Cancer Than Men

Even after going through treatments, one might not be fully cured as cancer can come back and spread to other areas, leading to worsened conditions.

And that’s why it’s scary – you’ll never know.

So what are the odds of surviving cancer?

Here’s a graph of the survival rates:

cancer survival rate male females 5 years
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office
cancer survival rate male females 5 years
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

Whether it’s the 5-year or 10-year, females have a higher age-standardised relative survival rate.

In the 5-year, the rate is 60.1% in 2013-2017 for females, while the rate is 51.2% for males.

In the 10-year, the rate is 54.3% in 2013-2017 for females, while the rate is 46.0% for males.

Note: Although it seems that survival rates are increasing throughout the years, it might not be due to medical and technological advancements. Earlier detection can also lead to higher survivability. It can be a mathematical bias in which it “prolongs” the survival period.

10) Stage 4 Cancers Have a Survival Rate of 18.6%

Much have been said about early detection leading to an increased rate of survival.

Are there any numbers back it? We look at the data on how the stage of cancer affects the survival rate.

Here’s the graph of the 5-year relative survival rates by stages:

cancer survival rate 5 years
Stage5-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival Rate
Stage 191.7
Stage 281.4
Stage 356
Stage 418.6

Here’s the graph of the 10-year survival rates by stages:

cancer survival rate 10 years
Stage10-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival Rate
Stage 187.6
Stage 276.1
Stage 347.4
Stage 413.7

Based on the 5-year figures, if one were to be diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, there’s a relative survival rate of 18.6%. That rate decreases in the 10-year figures – 13.7%.

Stage 1 cancers have the highest relative survival rates. 91.7% in the 5-year period; 87.6% in the 10-year period.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it.

Hopefully, these statistics on cancer in Singapore can give you further insights.

If you’ve found them useful, share it with your friends and families to let them know about cancer – prevention is better than cure.

Good eating habits, making changes to your lifestyle, and staying away from unhealthy habits reduce the chances of developing cancer. Regular screening also leads to earlier detection.

If you want to know more, check out other critical illness statistics or ensure that you have enough critical illness coverage with our calculator.

You can also learn more about early critical illness insurance plans in Singapore.

Abram Lim

With over 7 years of experience in the financial advisory industry, and previous stints in Citibank and UOB, Abram eagerly shares his knowledge by publishing research-backed articles. Learn more about Abram