Cancer survival rates differ among ethnic groups in New Zealand

Cancer survival rates differ among ethnic groups in New Zealand, with Maori having the lowest survival.

That is a key finding from a Massey University study on cancer survival, to be presented at a Symposium on Cancer Control on November 18 in Wellington.

There were 115,811 adult patients with an invasive cancer recorded on the New Zealand Cancer Registry between 1994 and 2002. The study linked these patients to the Mortality Collection in order to calculate survival rates. Ethnicity (Maori, Pacific, and non-Maori/non-Pacific) was assigned from hospitalisation and health administration databases.

Dr Mona Jeffreys from Massey University’s Centre for Public Health Research

says, “After five years following a cancer diagnosis, the proportion of people who are still alive are 53% non-Maori/non-Pacific, 49% for Pacific people, and 38% for Maori.”

The relative survival takes into account that Maori and Pacific people die earlier of other things, since people with cancer can die of causes other than cancer. After five years, the relative survival figures were 62% for non-Maori/non-Pacific, 57% for Pacific people and 44% for Maori.”

Dr Jeffreys says, “Except for breast and prostate cancers, lower survival in Maori for all the major cancer sites is not explained by stage at diagnosis. Possible factors responsible include access to specialised cancer services and the quality of care.”

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in New Zealand, after heart disease. There were 17,700 new cases diagnosed in the year 2000.

The Symposium on Cancer Control is supported by Massey University, the Ministry of Health and the National Screening Unit. Keynote speakers are Professor John Potter from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, and Professor Brian McAvoy from the Australian Cancer Control Initiative.

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