Cancer remains the leading cause of death in New Zealand but death rates are dropping.
The revelation comes in a package of updated cancer reports.
They show nearly 29 percent of all deaths in New Zealand are from cancer but death rates have fallen by more than 16 percent since 1999.
Ministry of Health cancer programme national clinical director Dr Andy Simpson says it's largely due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.
He says there was a small decrease in the total number of deaths between 2008 and 2009.
However, he says it's too early to identify the beginning of a trend and is almost certainly due to natural fluctuations in the data.