Quantifying differences in remaining life expectancy after cancer diagnosis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians, 2005-2016

descriptive epidemiology

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 12.7 years for all cancers combined, compared to 18.8 years for other Australians. This leaves a disparity in remaining life expectancy of 6.1 years.

This disparity varied by the type of cancer, e.g., over 10 years for cervical cancers, and less than gap for lung and pancreatic cancers. For all cancers combined, around 34% 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.

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