Cancer in Australia is largely a positive story. Despite increased incidence rates, which reflect an ageing population,the corresponding falling age-adjusted death rates and better survival suggest a health system well-equipped for early detection and treatment of cancer. However, there are inequalities in cancer survival among people in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia and disparities in cancer treatment, particularly in respect to colorectal, lung and breast cancer, are probably partly responsible. Other factors closely aligned with cancer risk and poorer survival in regional and remote Australia include: greater levels of socio-economic disadvantage, limited access to specialist cancer treatment services and a greater proportion of Indigenous people who have their cancers diagnosed at more advanced stages and may receive poorer treatment. In the absence of more complete data, the survival pattern we see in remote
parts of Australia probably represents the cancer experience of Indigenous Australians. Questions about the ways in which all of these factors collectively explain the survival picture in Australia will remain unanswered, unless we enrich our data sources, enhance cancer surveillance and work to better understand how the health system responds to the needs of different population subgroups, in particular our Indigenous people.