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Australian Interactive Cancer Map Shows Rates Nationwide

Pioneering online tool reveals cancer numbers, facts across the country.

01/07/2017 6:00 AM AEST | Updated 01/07/2017 6:05 AM AEST
Ridofranz via Getty Images

Lung cancer is more common in poorer areas and prostate cancer is more prevalent in richer areas, while Queensland is unsurprisingly the melanoma capital of Australia.

These are the findings from a nation-leading effort to map cancer rates across Australia, with the launch of a new interactive online national atlas from Torrens University.

The university's Public Health Information Development Unit on Saturday published its first national Atlas on cancer incidence, a map which displays cancer rates and can be sorted by community, local government area, primary health network area, socioecononomic status and remoteness. Professor John Glover, director of Torrens' PHIDU, told HuffPost Australia it was the first time such data had been collected in one place.

Torrens University
The PHIDU atlas

"Experts and officials can look at the data and know breast and prostate cancer are higher in certain areas and lower in other areas. You can compare the data in a double map, to see what the relationship is between cancer and birthplace or socioeconomic disadvantage," Glover said.

"That means you can target public campaigns, investigate the relationship with unemployment against the cancers, which can help people in the field to address those issues."

He said he had been involved in efforts over the years to map health outcomes against indicators like geography and income, but that 2017 marked the first time cancer was included in the publications. The map, on PHIDU's website, will be available to the public and tracks cancer rates in both genders; breast, colorectal, melanoma, lung, uterine and lymphoma for women, and prostate, colorectal, melanoma, lung, head and neck, lymphoma, leukaemia, bladder and kidney for men.

"One thing that surprised me is that with all cancers, there's a relationship with socioeconomic status. Lung cancer is more related to the more disadvantaged, while prostate and breast cancers are related with the most well-off areas," Glover said.

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Torrens University hopes researchers will be able to use the findings for good

Glover admitted all the data in the maps was not up-to-the-minute current. The atlas draws in data from a large range of sources, with some data coming from as early as 2010 and as recently as 2016, and Glover said researchers were waiting for more data to be released from the 2016 census while they currently rely on 2011 census figures.

The nation's six highest rates of prostate cancer in men are all in Queensland, with Bellbird Park and Churchill topping the list with 518 cases per 100,000 population. For breast cancer in women, Bellbird Park again topped the list with 553 per 100,000.

Burrum in QLD had the highest rates of melanoma for both men and women, with the sunshine state accounting for the top 11 nationwide rates of that cancer in men and 12 of the top 13 for women. Glover said there were a few stats he was most interested by.

"Prostate cancer incidence varies across all capital cities, but rates in the most disadvantaged areas are 28 percent lower than the most well off areas," he said.

"For men in areas with a high proportion of people from non-English speaking countries, there's a stronger relationship with lung cancer than people born in Australia, particularly for men arrived more than five years ago. But for for women it's the other way around, with women who live in areas with higher proportions of people from non-English countries having lower rates of lung cancer. Maybe that's because a lot of women from overseas countries are less likely to smoke."

The map is available to the public on PHIDU's website.


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