Lung cancer cases hitting Indigenous communities hard

Lung cancer incidence rates among Indigenous people in Queensland are a staggering 79 per cent higher than for non-Indigenous people – with death rates even higher at 89 per cent.

New figures released today by Cancer Council Queensland for National Close the Gap Day (March 15), reveal that around 750 Indigenous people were diagnosed with lung cancer in Queensland and 590 died from the disease between 1997-2014, the latest data available.

If Indigenous Queenslanders experienced the same incidence and mortality rates as non-Indigenous Queenslanders, there would have been around 330 fewer lung cancers diagnosed and around 280 fewer lung cancer deaths.

Lung cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Indigenous people, and the leading cause of all cancer deaths.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said smoking continued to be the main risk factor associated with this disease in Queensland.

“While some lung cancer cases are not attributed to smoking, research shows that almost eight out of 10 lung cancer cases are. Compared with non-smokers, smokers are up to 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer,” Ms McMillan said.

“Around 45 per cent of Indigenous adults in Queensland smoke daily, with smoking rates more than 2.5 times higher than non-Indigenous rates – significantly increasing their risk of lung cancer[1].

“More needs to be done to address smoking rates and discourage people from taking up the habit, to help close the gap and reduce the number of preventable cancer cases and deaths.”

The risk of developing lung cancer is strongly associated with the age a person starts smoking, how long they smoke and the number of cigarettes they smoke.

Ms McMillan said despite lung cancer being the leading cause of death – overall survival rates for Indigenous people were improving slowly for all cancer types.

“However, the gap in survival between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders has not improved over time which is a great concern,” 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.

“It’s important we understand what is driving poorer survival and avoidable deaths, to shape our future research projects and inform the development of targeted interventions to improve health outcomes among local Indigenous communities.

“Only 59 per cent of Indigenous people have survived a diagnosis, compared to a higher rate of 65 per cent for non-Indigenous Queenslanders.

“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.”

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

National Close the Gap day is an opportunity to raise awareness about health inequalities to help close the gap in survival disparities for cancer and other chronic diseases.

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