Rural Australians have poorer outcomes than urban: Australian Cancer Atlas

A new version of the Australian Cancer Atlas, an online cancer map revealing new geographical patterns across Australia, has been released by Cancer Council Queensland in partnership with QUT.

The Australian Cancer Atlas 2.0 shows the impact of cancer varies substantially depending on where Australians live. While the patterns vary for different cancer types, where there are differences, the consistent pattern is that Australians living in regional and remote areas experience poorer survival than those living in urban areas.

QUT Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, statistician and director of the QUT Centre for Data Science, said this updated tool was critical in helping define rural and regional health care planning.

“The Australian Cancer Atlas provides an enhanced view of what the geographical disparities are, and highlights where the impact of cancer is greatest,” Professor Mengersen said.

“Now we have the data, the next step is understanding the “why”, then informed changes can be made to reduce these disparities.

“By using the Atlas in conjunction with the newly released Australian Cancer Plan we can empower policymakers, advocates, and communities to make decisions for better health outcomes for all Australians.”

Cancer Council Queensland’s Professor Peter Baade said Cancer Atlas 2.0 provides unique information about the extent and characteristics of these geographical patterns, which was crucial to motivate the next step of understanding why these disparities exist.

“There is substantial evidence that, when it comes to cancer, where you live really matters. Our research demonstrates the disparities faced by Australians living in regional and remote areas have not improved over time,” Professor Baade said.

“The atlas shows which areas have above average risk factors for cancer, which areas have low screening or testing rates, higher rates of cancer diagnoses, lower rates of some treatments, and which areas have poorer survival rates.

“Users can also relate these patterns to where healthcare facilities are located across the country.

“While we don’t know the specific reasons for this gap, it is likely some combination of the behaviours of people living within those areas, along with availability and access to health services, contributes a substantial component. We hope this Atlas motivates investigations to uncover more of these reasons.”

The Leukaemia Foundation is using the Australian Cancer Atlas to enhance its research to better understand the impact of blood cancer across the country.

Leukaemia Foundation general manager Blood Cancer Partnerships Tim Murphy said the Australian Cancer Atlas would be a valuable tool to ensure the right resources are in the right places.

“The Australian Cancer Atlas will assist the sector to explore the essential data needed to address blood cancer more effectively and provide crucial insights to help us improve how we support affected communities in Australia,” Mr Murphy said.

“As an organisation, we are focused on breaking down barriers to ensure all Australians impacted by blood cancer have access to the best treatment, information, and supportive care to increase their chances of survival, no matter where they live.

“The cancer atlas will bring us closer to understanding blood cancers’ reach and impact and enable us to enhance our research and tailor our interventions more precisely to shape future healthcare strategies and to fight blood cancer head on.”

/University Release. View in full here.