Breast cancer incidence rates are increasing faster in north and west Queensland than in the rest of the state, a new Cancer Council Queensland study has found.
Researchers from Cancer Council Queensland examined incidence and survival patterns for the five most common cancers in 516 areas across the state, diagnosed between 1997-2004 and 2005-2012.
For women living in areas of northern and western Queensland, breast cancer incidence rates increased by an average of 11 per cent, compared with constant rates, on average, in south east areas.
The study also found prostate cancer incidence rates increased consistently across Queensland by 35 per cent throughout the time period examined, while incidence rates for bowel and lung cancer remained stable.
Incidence rates for melanoma decreased by 13 per cent in remote areas, but rose by four per cent in south-east Queensland and eight per cent in northern coastal areas.
Improvements in survival for all five cancer types was observed consistently across the state.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the findings gave researchers vital insight into the disparities across the 516 geographical areas studied.
“This research and knowledge will be fundamental in shaping our work and looking at how we can address disparities and improve cancer rates in certain regions,” Ms McMillan said.
“It helps us identify areas of increasing burden, and investigate how we might improve prevention methods, awareness of symptoms, education about screening programs and access to treatment in those areas.
“The good news is that while more people are being diagnosed with certain cancer types, five-year relative survival rates are improving consistently across the state.
“Despite this, people living in rural and remote areas of the state with historically poorer survival still face poorer outcomes than their urban counterparts.
“Greater focus needs to be placed on understanding why these disparities occur, and then designing appropriate interventions to reduce the inequalities.”
Throughout 2005-2012, there were 112,000 new diagnoses of the five most common cancers, an increase of almost 31,000 new cases compared to 1997-2004.
In Queensland around 3,300 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 3,900 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Around 3600 are diagnosed with melanoma annually, 3,100 with bowel cancer and 2,300 with lung cancer.
“Reducing disparities in cancer-related outcomes remains a health priority, and our modelling of different measures provides a way that we can continue to monitor this progress and reduce regional disparities,” Ms McMillan said.
 Cramb SM, Moraga P, Mengersen KL, Baade PD. Spatial variation in cancer incidence and survival over time across Queensland, Australia. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology 2017;23:59-67.
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