Cancer kills more poor people in Australia

Australians in poor areas are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer, new statistics show.
Australians in poor areas are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer, new statistics show.

Australians living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer, the latest government statistics show.

People living in the least disadvantaged areas of Australia have a mortality rate of 130 in every 100,000 people, as compared to 185 per 100,000 in poorer areas, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Cancer in Australia 2021 report shows.

People in poorer areas are also twice as likely to die from lung cancer, the report found.

Indigenous Australians are 45 per cent more likely to die than their non-Indigenous counterparts - 230 and 159 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.

And people living in remote areas were 27 per cent more likely to die, with 151 in every 100,000 dying in major cities while 191 in 100,000 died in remote areas.

However, the overall mortality rates across Australia have fallen, the report found.

Between 1989 and 2021, mortality rates have declined substantially across the board, from 287 to about 182 per 100,000 for men and 165 to 122 for women.

Australians with cancer now have a 70 per cent chance of surviving for five years or more, up on 51 per cent 30 years ago.

More than one million Australians are currently living with or have lived with cancer. This year, an estimated 151,000 will be diagnosed, and 49,000 will die as a result of the disease.

Prostate cancer and breast cancer are the most commonly diagnosed cancers for men and women respectively, with melanoma, colorectal and lung cancers the next three most common in both gender categories.

While the population of Australia has increased by 36 per cent since 2001 to nearly 26 million, the number of cancer diagnoses has increased by 67 per cent, largely attributable to the increased size of the older population, the report found.

"The ageing population is expected to continue to contribute to an increasing number of cancer cases. The Australian population is expected to increase by 15 per cent (about 4 million people) between 2021 and 2031, while cancer cases are estimated to increase by around 22 per cent," the report says.

"It is estimated that around 185,000 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2031, and that between 2022 and 2031, a total of around 1.7 million cases of cancer will be diagnosed."

Personal and behavioural risk factors such as smoking and obesity continue to contribute to the cancer burden, with 42 per cent of all incidences of cancer being attributable.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer diagnosis and survival will not be known for several years, but it appears to have had some effect on the uptake of cancer-related services like mammograms and colonoscopies.

In Victoria, there was a 10 per cent reduction in cancer pathology notifications in 2020, corresponding to an estimated 2530 undiagnosed cancers which may in turn result in a future spike in numbers, the report warned.

Australian Associated Press