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Abstract

Objective:To describe, for the first time, mortality from cancer for Aboriginal residents of New South Wales (NSW).

Methods:These are the results of a descriptive study of cancer deaths from the NSW Central Cancer Registry for 1994 to 2002. Standardised mortality ratios were calculated with Poisson confidence intervals to compare the relative rates in the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Results:The overall standardised mortality rates were 66% higher for males and 59% higher for females for Aboriginal people compared with non-Indigenous people. Mortality from lung cancer was 50% and 100% higher than for NSW non-Indigenous males and females respectively. The high mortality rate from cervical cancer in Aboriginal females is contrary to the trends in the general population since the introduction of free population-based screening.

Conclusions:For the first time, data are available for cancer mortality for Aboriginal people in NSW. Mortality for all cancers combined was higher than that of the non-Indiaenous population. This suggests that a combination of later diagnoses and perhaps poorer treatment outcomes as well as being diagnosed with poorer prognosis cancers is occurring in Aboriginal people of NSW.

Implications:It was possible to increase the rate of identification in a population register using routinely collected data, but the completeness and accuracy of Indigenous status should, and can, be improved in all notifying data collections. Public health planners in NSW can now begin to address the issues of prevention, treatment and palliation of cancer in Aboriginal people with local, rather than imputed, evidence.