Indigenous Australians more likely affected by cancers associated with preventable risk factor

Indigenous Australians are 1.4 times as likely to die from cancer as non-Indigenous Australians

UNDER EMBARGO—until 1.00am Thursday 15 March 2018

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are more likely to die from cancer than non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australians are more likely to be diagnosed with cancers associated with preventable risk factors, according to new analysis released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The web report, Cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia, shows that in 2009–2013, about 6,400 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Indigenous Australians—an average of 1,280 new cases each year.

Cancer was slightly more common in Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous (1.1 times as common), with notable variations in the types of cancer experienced.

‘Cancers that are associated with preventable risk factors are more common among Indigenous Australians, suggesting that in many cases, improvements may be possible,’ said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

For example, lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Indigenous Australians, while it was fourth most common for non-Indigenous Australians.

‘Differences may be related to higher rates of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, poorer access to health-care services and lower uptake of screening and diagnostics testing,’ Mr Harvey said.

The types of cancers most commonly diagnosed and the likelihood of being diagnosed when cancer is more advanced may be factors in the higher cancer death rates seen among Indigenous Australians—Indigenous Australians were 1.4 times as likely to die from cancer as non-Indigenous Australians.

Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in both Indigenous (57 deaths per 100,000 persons) and non-Indigenous Australians (31 deaths per 100,000 persons).

‘In 2007–2014, Indigenous Australians diagnosed with cancer had a 50% five-year relative survival rate, whereas for non-Indigenous Australians this rate was 65%’, Mr Harvey said.

‘Five-year survival has improved for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; however, improvements have been greater for non-Indigenous Australians, rising by 8 percentage points since 1999–2006, compared with 4 percentage points for Indigenous Australians.’

For Indigenous Australians diagnosed with cancer, those with thyroid cancer had the highest five-year survival (92%), followed by prostate cancer (86%) and breast cancer in females (81%). This is consistent with the results seen for non-Indigenous Australians.

The cancer incidence and survival data presented come from the states and territories where 90% of Indigenous Australians live (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory). 

The cancer mortality data presented come from the states and territories where 88% of all Indigenous Australians live (New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory).

Further information: Justin Harvey, AIHW: Tel. 02 6249 5057, mob. 0450 677 562