Disadvantaged Australians 60% more likely to die from cancer: report

Tuesday 28 November, 2017

Investment in cancer prevention urgently needed

Australians from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are 60 per cent more likely to die from cancer, a shocking new report has revealed.

The Australian Health Tracker by Socio-Economic Statusi released today also reveals that disadvantaged Australians are more likely to be obese, less likely to exercise, much more likely to smoke and less likely to screen for bowel cancer, which are all risk factors for cancer.

Cancer Council Victoria's Head of Prevention Craig Sinclair said the new figures provide a stark view of the disparities in health outcomes between socio-economic groups in Australia.

"This report clearly shows that we are in the middle of a worsening health crisis. Our most disadvantaged Australians are those at greatest risk of serious life-threatening health problems including cancer," Mr Sinclair said.

"With only 1.3 per cent of health expenditure spent on prevention at a time when we know investments of this type can be effective in reducing the burden of disease, we can only expect this situation to get worse.

"Critically, investments must be made to offset the burden of disease in low socio-economic groups where rates of smoking and obesity are significantly higher than the general population."

Mr Sinclair said the good news is that around 37,000 cancer cases in Australia – or 1 in 3 cases – could be prevented each year largely through lifestyle changesii.

"Smoking, UV radiation, body weight, poor diet and alcohol caused around 90 per cent of all preventable cancers. We must urge our governments to help create environments that support healthy lifestyle choices and ensure that Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds are fully educated on the life-saving cancer screening programs that are available for free," Mr Sinclair.

"Cancer rates are going to be greatly impacted for decades to come unless we start making strategic investments in prevention now."

Cancer Council Victoria has spokespeople available on the following topics:

  • Diet, exercise, overweight and obesity
  • Lung cancer and smoking prevalence
  • Bowel cancer and screening
  • Alcohol consumption

To arrange an interview, please contact Rebecca Cook on 0438 316 435.

i A new report from the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University.
ii Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors, commissioned by Cancer Council Australia and conducted by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. It has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.