Background:

This study quantified differences in remaining life expectancy (RLE) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australian patients with cancer. We assessed how much of this disparity was due to differences in cancer and noncancer mortality and calculated the population gain in life years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders cancer diagnoses if the cancer survival disparities were removed.

Methods:

Flexible parametric relative survival models were used to estimate RLE by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status for a population-based cohort of 709,239 persons (12,830 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders), 2005 to 2016.

Results:

For all cancers combined, the average disparity in RLE was 8.0 years between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (12.0 years) and other Australians (20.0 years). The magnitude of this disparity varied by cancer type, being >10 years for cervical cancer versus <2 years for lung and pancreatic cancers. For all cancers combined, around 26% of this disparity was due to differences in cancer mortality and 74% due to noncancer mortality. Among 1,342 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders diagnosed with cancer in 2015 an estimated 2,818 life years would be gained if cancer survival disparities were removed.

Conclusions:

A cancer diagnosis exacerbates the existing disparities in RLE among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Addressing them will require consideration of both cancer-related factors and those contributing to noncancer mortality.

Impact:

Reported survival-based measures provided additional insights into the overall impact of cancer over a lifetime horizon among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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