We monitored the burden of cancer in Italy and its trends over the last three decades, providing estimates of cancer incidence, mortality, years of life lost, years lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), for cancer overall and 30 cancer sites using data from the Global Burden of Disease study 2017. An overview of mortality trends between 1990 and 2017 was also provided. In 2017, there were 254,336 new cancer cases in men and 214,994 in women, corresponding to an age-standardized incidence rate (ASIR) of 438 and 330/100,000, respectively. Between 1990 and 2017, incident cancer cases, and, to a lesser extent, ASIRs significantly increased overall and for almost all cancer sites, but ASIRs significantly declined for lung and other tobacco-related neoplasms. In 2017, there were 101,659 cancer deaths in men (age-standardized death rate, ASDR, 158.5/100,000) and 78,918 in women (ASDR 93.9/100,000). Cancer deaths significantly increased between 1990 and 2017 (+ 18%), but ASDR significantly decreased (− 28%). Deaths significantly increased for many cancer sites, but decreased for stomach, esophageal, laryngeal, Hodgkin lymphoma, and testicular cancer. ASDRs significantly decreased for most neoplasms, with the main exceptions of cancer of the pancreas and uterus, and multiple myeloma. In 2017, cancer caused 3,204,000 DALYs. Between 1990 and 2017, DALYs and age-standardized DALY rates significantly declined (-3.4% and -33%, respectively). Age-standardized mortality rates in Italy showed favorable patterns over the last few decades. However, the absolute number of cancer cases and, to a lower extent, of cancer deaths increased likely due to the progressive ageing of the population, this calling for a continuous effort in cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment.
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