Notes on the data: Aboriginal premature mortality by selected cause

Deaths from cancer, Aboriginal persons aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years, 2011 to 2015


Policy context:  Cancer is a general term used to describe the group of diseases where cells grow in an uncontrolled and purposeless way inside the body [1]. Some cancers can be cured, others can be controlled by medical treatment and some are diagnosed too late for medical treatment to be effective.

Although the causes of many cancers are not fully understood, some of the factors that place people at greater risk of developing cancer are well recognised. They include: biomedical factors (e.g., genetic susceptibility, hormonal factors), behavioural factors (e.g., smoking - cause of around 20-30% of all cancers, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity, chronic infections, diet) and environmental factors (e.g., sunlight, radiation, occupational exposures, pollution) [2]. Some risk factors cannot be changed while others, especially those related to behaviours, are modifiable. The risk of many cancers increases as people age.

In the five-year period 2008 to 2012, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT, cancer was the second most common cause of death, being responsible for 20% of Indigenous deaths [3]. Indigenous Australians also had a lower likelihood of being treated for and surviving cancer [3].


  1. Cancer Council Australia (CCA). About cancer: FAQ [Internet]. [cited 2013 Oct 18]. Available from:
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR). Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. (AIHW Cat. no. CAN 56). Canberra: AIHW; 2010.
  3. Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2014 Report. AHMAC, Canberra.

Notes:  International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes: C00-D48

Deaths data

For deaths data released since 2007, the ABS has applied a staged approach to the coding of cause of death which affects the number of records available for release at any date. This release is comprised of preliminary data for 2015, revised data for 2014 and final data for 2011, 2012 and 2013. For further information about the ABS revisions process see the following and related sites:

Data quality

Almost all deaths in Australia are registered. However, Indigenous status is not always recorded, or recorded correctly. The incompleteness of Indigenous identification (referred to as completeness of coverage) means that the number of deaths registered as Indigenous is an underestimate of the actual number of deaths which occur in the Indigenous population. It should also be noted that completeness of coverage is likely to vary between geographical areas.

While there is incomplete coverage of Indigenous deaths in all state and territory registration systems, some jurisdictions have been assessed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as having a sufficient level of coverage to enable statistics on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality to be produced. Those jurisdictions are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.


Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Indigenous Quintiles and Indigenous Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Aboriginal deaths from cancer at ages 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Denominator:  Aboriginal population aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Detail of analysis:  Average annual indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 Aboriginal population (aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Data compiled by PHIDU from deaths data based on the 2011 to 2015 Cause of Death Unit Record Files supplied by the Australian Coordinating Registry and the Victorian Department of Justice, on behalf of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System. The population is the estimated resident population (ERP) from the Australian Census 2011.


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