Greater action needed to close the gap on Indigenous cancer survival

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland continue to face a higher risk of dying from cancer than non-Indigenous people, research shows.

Figures released today by Cancer Council Queensland for NAIDOC Week (July 2-9) reveal that five years post diagnosis, only 59 per cent of Indigenous people have survived their cancer, compared to a higher rate of 65 per cent for non-Indigenous Queenslanders.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms McMillan said while overall survival rates for Indigenous cancer patients were improving, the gap in survival between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders has not improved over time.

“Five-year cause-specific cancer survival rates for Indigenous Queenslanders have improved from 53 per cent in 1997-2006 to 59 per cent in 2007-2012,” Ms McMillan said.

“However, the difference in survival rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cancer patients has not reduced between the two time periods.

“While some reasons for the disparity remain unknown, we do know that Indigenous people are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers, and overall have lower participation rates in cancer screening and treatment uptake.”

Ms McMillan said around 470 Indigenous people in Queensland were diagnosed with cancer each year, and around 180 die from the disease.

“Cancer remains one of the leading causes of premature death among Indigenous Queenslanders and tragically, around 20 per cent of all cancer deaths can still be attributed to the survival disparity,” Ms McMillan said.

“We’re committed to helping improve health outcomes for Indigenous Queenslanders, whether they live in metro, regional or remote areas, to help reduce survival disparities and save lives.

Lung cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Indigenous Queenslanders, with around 80 out of every 100,000 people diagnosed, nearly two times higher than for non-Indigenous Queenslanders.

“Of concern, incidence rates for colorectal cancer and prostate cancer are also increasing year on year for Indigenous people, while they are declining for non-Indigenous Queenslanders.

“We’re dedicated to continuing research in this area to better understand what is driving poorer survival and avoidable deaths, and to inform the development of targeted interventions to improve health outcomes among local Indigenous communities.”

NAIDOC Week (July 2-9) is a time to recognise and celebrate the contribution of Indigenous Australians, and raise awareness about health inequalities to help close the gap in survival disparities for cancer and other chronic diseases.

Cancer Council Queensland and the Menzies School of Health Research are currently working in partnership to further research survival disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders to help improve survival outcomes for those diagnosed with cancer.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Laura McKoy,
Media Manager,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5345
Mobile: 0409 001 171