Thursday 17 March 2022
New research from Cancer Council Queensland has revealed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have consistently lower remaining life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis than non-Indigenous Australians.
In a new report titled Quantifying differences in remaining life expectancy after cancer diagnosis,Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians, 2005-2016, contributing researchers found on average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients had 12 years of life remaining and non Indigenous Australians had 20 years, revealing an 8 year disparity in life expectancy across the two groups.
To conduct the study, researchers from Cancer Council Queensland, University of Queensland and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute assessed over 16 leading individual cancer types in a cohort of over 700,000 cancer diagnoses from Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia from 2005-2016.
The researchers concluded a cancer diagnosis exacerbates the disparities in remaining life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Interventions to address these must consider both cancer related factors and those contributing to non-cancer mortality.
Other key findings included:
- If Aboriginal and Torres Islanders experienced the same cancer mortality as non-Indigenous Australians, their standardised remaining life expectancy would increase by an average of 2.1 years for all cancers combined.
- Cancer mortality accounted for 26% of the disparity in remaining life expectancy for all cancers combined, while non-cancer mortality accounted for 74% of the disparity in remaining life expectancy.
- If there were no differences in cancer mortality by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, the remaining life years following a cancer diagnosis would increase by around 17% among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders included in the research were diagnosed with cancer at a significantly younger age.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the study highlights the need to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
“It’s disappointing to see such a prevalent gap in the remaining life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when compared with other Australians faced with cancer,” Ms McMillan said.
“This new research shines a light on the need to address both factors related to cancer management, such as access to treatment and support, and those contributing to a higher non-cancer mortality to help improve outcomes.”
“National Close the Gap Day provides an opportunity to highlight the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians when faced with a cancer diagnosis.”
Cancer Council Queensland General Manager of Research, Professor Joanne Aitken, said the new research offers valuable insight into how the remaining life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis differs between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cancer patients.
“Going into this study, we already knew Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience poorer survival than other Australian cancer patients, but not the level of disparity that non-cancer factors played in their poorer survival,” Professor Aitken said.
“On average, about one third of the disparity was due to differences in cancer survival, while 70% of the disparity was due to non-cancer deaths.”
Contributing researcher from the University of Queensland Professor Gail Garvey specialises in indigenous health research and said the results highlight existing concerns within Australia’s healthcare system.
“These vast differences point to deficiencies in providing accessible and effective health services and cancer care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These issues need to be addressed if outcomes are to improve,” Professor Garvey said.
The report Quantifying differences in remaining life expectancy after cancer diagnosis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians, 2005-2016 has been published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
You can also access the report here: https://aacrjournals.org/cebp/article-abstract/doi/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-1390/682047/Quantifying-differences-in-remaining-life
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