Aboriginal Victorians much more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than non-Aboriginal Victorians

World’s most up-to-date cancer snapshot released

New cancer data has revealed that while Victorians from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than non-Aboriginal Victorians, and are more than twice as likely to die from cancer.

On average, 188 Aboriginal Victorians are diagnosed with cancer each year, with 78 cancer related deaths in Aboriginal Victorians. 

The data from the Victorian Cancer Registry released as part of its publication, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2017, is the world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.

The most common cancers for Aboriginal Victorians were the same as for Victorians of other descent – lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said there are a number of cancers with higher rates in Aboriginal Victorians than non-Aboriginal Victorians – lung, liver, head and neck, stomach, cervix, breast, oesophagus, and bladder (in women) and lymphoma (in men).

“The cancers where we see significantly higher rates in the Aboriginal community reflect the prevalence of known risk factors in the community, including tobacco use, alcohol consumption and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).”

Mr Harper said the greater mortality rates experienced by Aboriginal Victorians reflect those cancers for which incidence is higher, but may also be associated with diagnoses occurring at more advanced disease stage.

“The trend we’re seeing in Aboriginal Victorians of cancers being diagnosed later could reflect problems around timely access to treatment and lower participation in cancer screening programs. We must continue to work tirelessly on finding new and improved ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer, while continuing to support those affected.

“With a third of cancers able to be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, being SunSmart and eating a balanced diet, it’s vital that we continue to invest in prevention programs that educate people on how to reduce their cancer risk.”

Acting CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) Trevor Pearce said: “Our biggest challenge in the cancer space is that we are dying at higher numbers. This is not because we have a higher prevalence of cancer in our Community, it is because we are not accessing services early enough and a lot of that has to do with cultural safety.”

Mr Pearce also commended the work of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations across Victoria that provide holistic health and wellbeing services for Aboriginal people, many of which are piloting new service delivery models that may increase cancer screening and early intervention rates within Communities.

– ENDS –

The Victorian Cancer Registry is a population-based cancer registry run by Cancer Council Victoria and co-funded by the Victorian Government. It aims to provide comprehensive, accurate and timely information for cancer control. To read the publication visit www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-in-victoria. To download the full report

Cancer Council Victoria is a non-profit organisation and has been leading the fight against all cancers for 82 years. We focus on cancer research, patient support, cancer prevention and advocacy. Please visit www.cancervic.org.au for further information.