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Lung cancer kills 3 times more Aboriginal women in Vic each year

Monday 5 March, 2018

Smokers urged to quit smoking to reduce cancer risk

New cancer data has revealed Victorian women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds are more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with and die from lung cancer as non-Aboriginal Victorian women.

Aboriginal men in Victoria are also at greater risk, being more than twice as likely as non-Aboriginal men to be diagnosed with and die from lung cancer, making it the leading cause of cancer death in Aboriginal Victorians.

The data from the Victorian Cancer Registry released as part of its publication, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2016 , is consistent with much higher smoking rates in Aboriginal communities across Australia [i].

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper encouraged Aboriginal Victorians who smoke to get support to quit.

“We know that 80 per cent of lung cancers can be attributed to smoking, and that about 1 in 8 cancer deaths in Australia is as a result of smoking. Lung cancer accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths in Aboriginal Victorians, compared to almost one in five in other Victorians [ii],” Mr Harper said.

“Quitting smoking is the best lifestyle change you can make to reduce your risk of cancer.”

With 38 per cent of Aboriginal adults in Victoria being daily smokers [iii], Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White urged Aboriginal Victorians to consider the benefits of quitting.

“When you quit smoking the health benefits are immediate, regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking,” Dr White said. “The benefits of having more money in your pocket are pretty obvious, and there are also benefits of being a good role model for the young people around you.”

“And while not everyone succeeds the first time they try, quitting smoking is absolutely achievable – today there are more former smokers in Victoria than current smokers.”

Dr White said a comprehensive approach, which includes support from a service like the Aboriginal Quitline combined with nicotine replacement therapy or quitting medication, is the best way to quit for good.

“Whether you’re ready to quit now or just thinking about it, the Aboriginal Quitline is a fantastic place to start. Call 13 78 48 and you can yarn with an Aboriginal Quit Specialist. If you do want to quit, you will receive free personalised support to help you kick the habit for good. Or you can visit  quit.org.au for information and tools to help plan a quit attempt,” Dr White said.

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) CEO Ian Hamm urged smokers to give quitting a go and help reduce the enormous toll of smoking-related health problems on the Aboriginal community.

“We cannot overstate the disproportionate impact that smoking has on our community. It not only affects those who smoke, but those around them, leaving families grieving because of the premature deaths. I encourage anyone who is smoking to stop, not only for themselves, but for people that they love.”

Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2016 also revealed the five most common cancers for Aboriginal Victorians were lung, breast, bowel, prostate and lymphoma. These make up 50% of new cancers in Aboriginal Victorians, and 45% of cancer deaths.

Mr Harper said: “Last year we lost another 11,111 Victorians to cancer – an average of 30 people every day. 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 such a large number of deaths due to smoking, and an increasing number of obesity-related cancers being diagnosed, the importance of investing in prevention is clear.”


[ii] Lung cancer accounts for 27% of cancer deaths in Aboriginal Victorians, compared to 19% in other Victorians. This is partly due to higher lung cancer mortality rates, but also to lower rates of some other cancers such as prostate and melanoma.