In 2020, the Polish National Cancer Registry received information on almost 146,2 thousand new cancer cases and 99,9 thousand cancer deaths. Compared to the previous year, the number of cases decreased by 12 908 in men and 12 129 in women. Compared to the previous year, the number of deaths due to cancer among men did not change, and among women it decreased by 453 deaths. The decrease in the number of cancer cases observed in 2020, visible for most cancer sites, was probably caused by postponing diagnosis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and other pandemic restrictions (e.g. transforming hospitals into units treating only COVID-19).

Malignant neoplasms are the second cause of death in Poland, causing 21,8% of all male deaths and 20,0% of all female deaths in 2020. They constitute a significant health problem, especially in young and middleaged individuals (25-64 years old). This phenomenon is especially evident in the female population, in which, for several years, cancer has been the leading cause of death before the age of 65. In 2020, it accounted for 28,3% of deaths in young women and 41,6% in middleaged women.

Cancer in Poland

In Poland, cancer incidence and mortality trends are determined by the population age structure and changes in the exposure to carcinogens, especially tobacco smoking. The impact of smoking prevalence is especially evident in the female population. In 2020, once again, the number of female lung cancer deaths exceeded the number of breast cancer deaths by over 1000.

The most common male cancer is prostate cancer, accounting for almost 20% of all cancer cases in this group. It is characterized by the highest increase in the incidence rate among all male cancers. The mortality rate for prostate cancer has shown an upward trend since 2004. The second most frequent cancer among men is lung cancer. A decrease in its incidence and mortality rates has been observed for almost 15 years. It can be attributed to the noticeable reduction of smoking prevalence among Polish men, which has been observed in recent decades. Despite the decrease in the mortality rate, lung cancer is still the dominant cause of male cancer death (26% of all cases), significantly affecting the cancer mortality curve. The third most common male malignant neoplasm is colorectal cancer (11% of all cases), characterized by an increasing incidence tendency with a simultaneous stabilization of mortality.

The most prevalent cancer sites in the Polish female population are breast, lung, and colorectum (colon and rectum). It is noteworthy that the incidence of breast cancer has been steadily increasing over the past halfcentury. In 2020, the leading causes of female cancer deaths were lung cancer (17.6%) and breast cancer (15.3%). The trends in breast cancer mortality changed several times over the last thirty years. In the mid-1990s, after many years of increase, they achieved a plateau. Then, in 1996-2010 a declining trend was observed. In 2010-2020, there was an unfavourable change in the trend. The third leading cause of death due to cancer among women remains colorectal cancer.

source: The „Cancer in Poland 2020” bulletin,
authors: Urszula Wojciechowska, Klaudia Barańska, Irmina Michałek, Paweł Olasek, Marta Miklewska, Joanna A. Didkowska
Report „Cancer in Poland 2020” was published within „Cancer Registration” task by the National Cancer Strategy