Reliable national data on the incidence and mortality of cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not available.1 A person's Indigenous status is not always recorded in cancer registry data.
Available data indicate inequities in health status and outcomes for Indigenous people generally, and in cancer outcomes in particular. Some evidence indicates that Indigenous people may experience a high burden of cancer morbidity and mortality, and poorer survival rates, compared to non-Indigenous Australians.1, 3-6
Between 2008 and 2012 in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland:81
- An average of 1,189 Indigenous Australians were diagnosed with cancer each year, representing 1.1% of all cancer cases diagnosed in that period.81
- The age-standardised incidence rate for all cancers combined was significantly higher for Indigenous Australians (484 per 100,000) compared with non-Indigenous Australians (439 per 100,000). 81
- The most commonly diagnosed cancers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were cancers of the lung, breast in females, bowel, and prostate. 81
- Indigenous Australians were 2.8 times as likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer, 2.2 times as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, 2.0 times as likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer and 1.9 times as likely to be diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary site as their non-Indigenous counterparts. 81
There is evidence of increasing cancer incidence in the Indigenous population, although the trend is slightly lower than in the non-Indigenous population.3, 4, 7 The rise in cancer incidence rates in the Indigenous population can be partly attributed to improved access to screening services, particularly mammography and cervical cancer screening in rural and remote communities. Participation rates are still significantly less than non-Indigenous Australians.1 Implementation of culturally sensitive cancer awareness programs, which include involvement of Indigenous health workers, may have also increased people's awareness and participation in early detection programs.
Mortality data demonstrates significant inequities in the Indigenous experience. Between 2010 and 2014 in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory: 81
- There was an average of 512 cancer-related deaths for Indigenous Australians (1.6% of all deaths due to cancer).
- Indigenous Australians died from cancer at a younger age than non-Indigenous Australians.
- The age-standardised mortality rate for all cancers combined was higher for Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians (221 and 171 per 100,000, respectively)
- The most common causes of cancer death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were cancers of the lung (670 deaths), liver (175), breast in females (155), and unknown primary site (175).
- Indigenous Australians were 3.8 times as likely to die from cervical cancer, 2.5 times as likely to die from liver cancer, and 1.8 times as likely to die from lung cancer as non-Indigenous Australians.
Survival statistics further demonstrate the inequities. Between 2008 and 2012 in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory: 81
- The five-year crude survival for Indigenous Australians was 43% for all cancers combined, which was significantly lower than for non-Indigenous Australians (57%).
- Compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts, the 5-year crude survival rate for Indigenous Australians was significantly lower:
- for all age groups
- for those living in all remoteness areas
- for lung cancer (7% compared with 11%), breast cancer in females (70% compared with 81%), bowel cancer (47% compared with 53%), prostate cancer (63% compared with 72%) and cervical cancer (51% compared with 67%).
- Outline trends in overall cancer incidence, mortality and survival for Indigenous Australians.
- Identify the most common cancers in male and female Indigenous Australians.
Access the Executive Summary of the AIHW report Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2008 report: detailed analysis8, and identify factors that may increase the risk of cancer in Indigenous peoples in the following categories:
- health status and health outcomes
- health systems performance
- determinants of health identity.
Access The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2015 (PDF, 8.11MB)2, and identify factors that may increase the risk of cancer in Indigenous peoples in the following categories:
- housing and transport
- community capacity
- social and emotional wellbeing.
Video 6: Catherine (0.32 min)
Catherine discusses the impression Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people have of cancer.