What is known?
In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience a lower life expectancy and poorer cancer survival rates than other Australians. To date, there has been no information on how remaining life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis differs between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and other Australian cancer patients.
What is new?
We used a cohort of more than 709,000 people, aged 15-89 years (12,830 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) who were diagnosed with an invasive solid cancer from 2005-2016. They were all from New South Wales, Queensland, The Northern Territory and Western Australia. (In 2016, 84% of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in these four states/territories.)
Estimates were reported for all cancers combined and 13 leading cancers. We found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders had consistently lower remaining life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis than other Australians. On average, the remaining life expectancy was 12.0 years for all cancers combined, compared to 20.0 years for other Australians. This leaves a disparity in remaining life expectancy of 8.0 years.
This disparity varied by the type of cancer, e.g., over 10 years for cervical cancers, and less than 2 years for lung and pancreatic cancers. For all cancers combined, around 24% of the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians was due to differences in cancer mortality, with the remainder due to differences in mortality from non-cancer causes.
If the differences in cancer mortality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples could be removed, we estimated that, on average, the remaining life years following a cancer diagnosis would increase by around 17%.
What does this mean?
A cancer diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples further increases the already existing disparities in life expectancy compared to other Australians. These vast differences point to a lack of accessible and effective health services and cancer care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. Therefore this needs to be addressed to improve outcomes.
Contact: Paramita Dasgupta
Reference: Dasgupta P, Andersson T, Garvey G, Baade P. Quantifying differences in remaining life expectancy after cancer diagnosis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians, 2005-2016. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2022. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-21-1390.