Cancer patients are increasingly living longer with 66 per cent now surviving for at least five years - a dramatic rise from the 47 per cent rate for all cancers combined in the mid-1980s.

The cancers with the largest so-called survival gains from 1982-1987 to 2006-2010 were prostate and kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows.

The only cancers for which survival rates didn't improve were lip, larynx and brain cancer along with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

"While overall cancer survival is improving in Australia variations still exist between types of cancer," AIHW spokeswoman Anne Bech said in a statement.


Between 2006 and 2010 the cancers with the highest survival rates were testicular, lip, prostate and thyroid cancer along with melanoma of the skin. All had a five-year survival rate of 90 per cent or more.

But sadly pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma remain incredibly lethal. They have the lowest survival rate with less than 10 per cent of patients alive five years after diagnosis.

Women generally survived longer than men and younger people had higher survival rates than older people.

In good news for people who have already survived five years, the AIHW study found they had a 90 per chance of living for another five for all cancers combined.

In the 25 years to 2007 the incidence of all cancers rose by 27 per cent but deaths from the disease fell by 16 per cent.

The survival rate for all cancers combined has steadily increased since 1982-1987 when it was 47 per cent.

It was 52 per cent in 1988-1993, 58 per cent six years later and 62 per cent in the 2000-2005 time period.

* Survival is a general term indicating the probability of being alive for a given amount of time after a diagnosis of cancer.