• hospital costs;
  • indigenous health;
  • oral malignancies;
  • rural-urban differences


Background:  To assess the incidence, age, sex, direct financial burden and Indigenous distribution of hospital separations for oral malignancies.

Methods:  Data for the retrospective analysis was obtained from the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data System for the four financial years 1999/2000 to 2002/2003. Principal diagnosis, classified by the International Classification of Disease (ICD-10AM) system was obtained from every patient diagnosed with an oral malignancy (ICD-10 codes: C02.0 – D37.0), and discharged from every private and public hospital in Western Australia for the study period.

Results:  The average age of hospitalization for oral malignancies is 58 years. Males are twice as likely to be hospitalized than females. Indigenous patients are 1.3 times more likely to be hospitalized for oral malignancies and stay in hospital for nearly twice as long as non-indigenous patients. Indigenous patients had a 3.5 times higher rate of palate malignancies, and 1.4 times higher rate of tonsil malignancies than non-Indigenous patients. Lip malignancies were most prevalent in non-indigenous patients. Oral malignancies represent a 15.5% of the oral health related hospitalization costs but only 4.6% of separations.

Conclusion:  Oral malignancies represent a considerable financial burden to the health system compared with the percentage of patients. With increasing incidence rates, especially amongst elderly, male and indigenous population groups, the future implications for the health care system is of particular concern.