This report brings together the most up-to-date data available from a wide range of sources to describe the status of cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
Cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia: an overview provides a summary of statistics on cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia.
Cancer incidence and mortality rates are higher for Indigenous Australians
In 2004-2008, Indigenous Australians had a higher rate of new cancer cases diagnosed than non-Indigenous Australians (461 compared with 434 per 100,000) using age-standardised data. Lung cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Indigenous Australians.
In 2007-2011, the age-standardised cancer mortality rate was higher for Indigenous Australians than for non-Indigenous Australians (252 compared with 172 per 100,000). Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for Indigenous Australians.
Cancer survival is lower for Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians diagnosed with cancer between 1999 and 2007 had a 40% chance of surviving for at least 5 years, which was lower than non-Indigenous Australians (52%).
Fewer cancer-related hospitalisations occurred for Indigenous Australians
From 2006-07 to 2010-11, Indigenous Australians were less likely to be hospitalised for a principal diagnosis of cancer compared with other Australians (113 compared with 170 per 10,000), although they had longer hospitalisations than other Australians (9.6 compared with 7.7 days on average).
Higher prevalence of cancer-related modifiable risk factors
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have higher rates of certain lifestyle risk factors, which can partly explain some cancer incidence and mortality patterns such as:
- Liver cancer: Indigenous Australians are 3 times as likely to develop, and 3.3 times as likely to die from liver cancer and had a lower chance of surviving another 1 year (21% compared with 33%) than non-Indigenous Australians. Higher rates of risky alcohol consumption and higher prevalence of hepatitis B infection in this population group may be contributing factors.
- Cervical cancer: Indigenous females are 2.8 times as likely to develop and 3.9 times as likely to die from cervical cancer and had a lower chance of surviving another 5 years (51% compared with 67%) than non-Indigenous females. A contributing factor in the higher rates in Indigenous females could be lower rates of cervical screening for this population group.
- Lung cancer: Indigenous Australians are 1.9 times as likely to develop and die from lung cancer as non-Indigenous Australians. A contributing factor may be the higher prevalence of smoking among Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous Australians (38% compared with 18%).
- Breast cancer in females: Indigenous females diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003-2007 had a 100% higher risk of dying from any cause by 2010 than non-Indigenous females. The poorer prognosis could be at least partly explained by the lower participation of Indigenous females in breast cancer screening (36%) than non-Indigenous females (54%).