After accounting for competing causes of death and more advanced stage, do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with cancer still have worse survival? A population-based cohort study in New South Wales

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Cancer, 2017, 17 (1)
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© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia have been found to have poorer cancer survival than non-Aboriginal people. However, use of conventional relative survival analyses is limited due to a lack of life tables. This cohort study examined whether poorer survival persist after accounting for competing risks of death from other causes and disparities in cancer stage at diagnosis, for all cancers collectively and by cancer site. Methods: People diagnosed in 2000-2008 were extracted from the population-based New South Wales Cancer Registry. Aboriginal status was multiply imputed for people with missing information (12.9%). Logistic regression models were used to compute odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for 'advanced stage' at diagnosis (separately for distant and distant/regional stage). Survival was examined using competing risk regression to compute subhazard ratios (SHRs) with 95%CIs. Results: Of the 301,356 cases, 2517 (0.84%) identified as Aboriginal (0.94% after imputation). After adjusting for age, sex, year of diagnosis, socio-economic status, remoteness, and cancer site Aboriginal peoples were more likely to be diagnosed with distant (OR 1.30, 95%CI 1.17-1.44) or distant/regional stage (OR 1.29, 95%CI 1.18-1.40) for all cancers collectively. This applied to cancers of the female breast, uterus, prostate, kidney, others (those not included in other categories) and cervix (when analyses were restricted to cases with known stages/known Aboriginal status). Aboriginal peoples had a higher hazard of death than non-Aboriginal people after accounting for competing risks from other causes of death, socio-demographic factors, stage and cancer site (SHR 1.40, 95%CI 1.31-1.50 for all cancers collectively). Consistent results applied to colorectal, lung, breast, prostate and other cancers. Conclusions: Aboriginal peoples with cancer have an elevated hazard of cancer death compared with non-Aboriginal people, after accounting for more advanced stage and competing causes of death. Further research is needed to determine reasons, including any contribution of co-morbidity, lifestyle factors and differentials in service access to help explain disparities.
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