To explore the impact of geographical remoteness and area-level socioeconomic disadvantage on colorectal cancer (CRC) survival.
Multilevel logistic regression and Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations were used to analyze geographical variations in five-year all-cause and CRC-specific survival across 478 regions in Queensland Australia for 22,727 CRC cases aged 20–84 years diagnosed from 1997–2007.
Area-level disadvantage and geographic remoteness were independently associated with CRC survival. After full multivariate adjustment (both levels), patients from remote (odds Ratio [OR]: 1.24, 95%CrI: 1.07-1.42) and more disadvantaged quintiles (OR = 1.12, 1.15, 1.20, 1.23 for Quintiles 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively) had lower CRC-specific survival than major cities and least disadvantaged areas. Similar associations were found for all-cause survival. Area disadvantage accounted for a substantial amount of the all-cause variation between areas.
We have demonstrated that the area-level inequalities in survival of colorectal cancer patients cannot be explained by the measured individual-level characteristics of the patients or their cancer and remain after adjusting for cancer stage. Further research is urgently needed to clarify the factors that underlie the survival differences, including the importance of geographical differences in clinical management of CRC.