Australia is continuing to make progress against cancer, but the regional and remote disadvantage remains

Michael D Coory, Tsun Ho and Susan J Jordan
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (9): 605-608. || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10055


Objective: To measure progress, over the past decade, in reducing the disadvantage in cancer death rates among people living in regional and remote areas of Australia.

Design: Analysis of routinely collected death certificate and corresponding population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Setting: Population-based, Australia-wide comparison of mortality rates in regional and remote areas compared with metropolitan areas from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2010.

Main outcome measures: Absolute and relative excess of cancer deaths in regional and remote areas.

Results: The number of excess cancer deaths in regional and remote areas from 2001 to 2010 was 8878 (95% CI, 8187–9572). For men, the age-standardised mortality ratios (comparing regional and remote areas with metropolitan areas) showed no evidence of improvement, from 1.08 in 1997–2000 to 1.11 in 2006–2010. For women, they increased from 1.01 in 1997–2000 to 1.07 in 2006–2010. The age-standardised cancer death rate in regional and remote areas (annual percentage change [APC], 0.6%; 95% CI, 0.8% to 0.4%) is decreasing more slowly than in metropolitan areas (APC, 1.1%; 95% CI, 1.3% to 1.0%).

Conclusions: The regional and remote disadvantage for cancer deaths has been recognised as a problem for more than two decades, yet we have made little progress. This is not surprising — we have not invested in research into solutions. The benefits of laboratory and clinical research to identify innovative cancer treatments will not be fully realised across the entire Australian population unless we also invest in health systems and policy research.

  • Michael D Coory1
  • Tsun Ho2
  • Susan J Jordan3

  • 1 Health Services Research, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Department of Health, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 3 Population Health Department, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, QLD.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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