9 Important Cancer Statistics in Singapore (Updated 2020)

Have you tried to search for Singapore’s statistics on cancer?

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, and it will be constantly updated.

Some of the statistics included:

  • likelihood of getting cancer
  • which are the most common cancers
  • cost of cancer treatments
  • survival rates
  • etc

So, read on!

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. The process of this happening is usually in a natural and organised way. However, this 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 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. But the costs are generally high too.

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

1) Cancer Accounts for 28.80% of All Deaths in Singapore

In 2018, Singapore has a population of 3,994,283 residents (Citizens and Permanent Residents).

From this pool, how many people are dying every year?

There are a total of 20,095 resident deaths in 2018 equating to a crude death rate of about 0.5% (20,095/3,994,283*100).

How many deaths are due to cancer?

Here are the causes of death in 2018:

causes of death
CausePercentage of Deaths
Cancer28.8%
Pneumonia20.6%
Ischaemic heart diseases18.1%
Cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke)6%
External causes of morbidity and mortality4.3%
Hypertensive diseases (including hypertensive heart disease)3%
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome & nephrosis3%
Other heart diseases2.1%
Urinary tract infection2%
Chronic obstructive lung disease1.3%
Diabetes Mellitus1.3%
Source: MOH

As you can see, cancer accounted for 28.80% of deaths and is the number 1 cause of death in Singapore. It also means that close to 1 in every 3 deaths is due to cancer.

Because of cancer, roughly 15 Singaporeans are dying every day.

2) 1 in 4-5 Singaporeans Are Expected to Get Cancer

Having known that cancer can be fatal, we don’t want it in our books.

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

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

The following figures represent only NEW cases diagnosed (does not include prevailing ones):

YearNo. of cancer cases diagnosed
201111,758
201212,342
201312,881
201413,212
201514,148
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

(Unfortunately, these figures are the latest that are publicly available)

As you can see, the number of incident cases is increasing steadily over the years.

In the latest year, 14,148 Singaporeans are diagnosed with cancer. This meant that around 38 people (14,148/365) are diagnosed with cancer every single day.

But in my opinion, the exact figures could be higher because only diagnosed cases are recorded (after screenings or check-ups).

What about those that didn’t check-up? 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 detection, which brings us to the next statistic…

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

And that’s a big concern.

3) Singapore Is In World’s Top 50 for Highest Cancer Rates

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
Source: World Cancer Research Fund

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.

4) Colorectal & Breast Cancers Are the Most Common Cancers in Singapore

The way cancers react will be different for male and female bodies.

Here are the common cancers:

most common cancers singapore
Source: National Cancer Center Singapore

Here are the most common cancers for men:

Type of CancerPercentage
Colo-rectum17.2%
Lung14.8%
Prostate13%
Liver7.5%
Lymphoid Neoplasms6.8%
Skin5.8%
Stomach4.7%
Nasopharynx3.8%
Kidney & other urinary3.4%
Myeloid Neoplasms3.2%
Source: National Cancer Center Singapore

As you can see, the top cancer for men is Colorectal cancer at 17.2%, and just following closely behind is Lung cancer and Prostate cancer at 14.8% and 13% respectively.

Here are the most common cancers for women:

Type of CancerPercentage
Breast29.1%
Colo-rectum13.4%
Lung7.5%
Uterus6.9%
Ovary5.4%
Lymphoid Neoplasms4.4%
Skin4.2%
Thyroid3.8%
Stomach3.4%
Cervix3.1%
Source: National Cancer Center Singapore

From the data, the top cancer for women is Breast cancer at 29.1%. It’s much more common compared to the rest by a huge margin.

5) 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

Years ago, the gap was huge. But now, cancer rates for females are catching up fast. Males still have a slightly higher chance to develop cancer.

However, if we were to look at the number of cancers diagnosed for men and women (or the crude incidence rates:

PeriodGenderNumber%
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
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

The cancer diagnoses for females have already surpassed males from 1998-2002 onwards. But this could also be due to females forming a slight majority in the population (51% vs 49% in 2017).

Also note that the number of cancers diagnosed increased 6 times from 12,072 in 1968-1972 to 71,265 in 2013-2017.

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 marginally lesser than males
  • Crude incidence rates have already surpassed males

Would this trend continue? Only time will tell.

6) The Chinese 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
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office

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 disproportionate.

The Chinese have an even greater probability of contracting cancers than the rest of the ethnicity groups in Singapore.

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

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 it’s coupled with higher costs.

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

cancer treatment cost singapore

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

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

8) Women Are More Likely to Survive 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 worsening conditions.

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

So what are the odds of surviving cancer?

Here’s are graphs 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 a 5 or 10 years period, the survival rates for females are higher than males.

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

In the 10-year period, 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 because of medical and technological advancements. Earlier detection can lead to higher survivability. But it can also be a mathematical bias in which it “prolongs” the survival period.

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

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

Are there any numbers back it?

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

cancer survival rate for different stages 5 years
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office
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 for different stages 10 years
Source: National Registry of Diseases Office
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 18.6% chance of survival (and also means that 81.4% of the time, death happens during that 5 years). The chance of survival decreases in the 10-year period with a survival rate of 13.7%.

Stage 1 cancer have the highest chances of survival. 91.7% in the 5-year period; 87.6% in the 10-year period. This further supports the importance of early detection.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it.

Hope these statistics on cancer can give you further insights.

If you notice any errors or have any feedback, drop me a message.

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

If you want to know more, check out the cost of cancer treatments and our study on life insurance claims statistics.

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