Now Reading: Torrens University pioneers interactive map revealing cancer rates across the nation

Torrens University pioneers interactive map revealing cancer rates across the nation

Torrens University pioneers interactive map revealing cancer rates across the nation

Today is Daffodil Day, the Cancer Council’s biggest fundraising event for Cancer research.

In light of Daffodil Day, we are proud to present an online tool which reveals key insights for Cancer research. The Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) at Torrens University Australia has pioneered the first national Atlas which shows incidence of cancer by community and locality across the nation. These findings are able to pinpoint information by state and territory, socioeconomic status and remoteness. This allows users to break down cancer prevalence across age, gender, indigenous status, birthplace, education and wealth across small localised areas.

John Glover, Director of PHIDU explains that this the map will not only provided vast amounts of information about the prevalence of main cancer groups across Australia and mortality rates, but can also be used by public health officials to precisely target health campaigns.

“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. 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” 

These findings have also been published on Huffpost, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Conversation.

Torrens University

What were the key findings of cancer incidence in Australia?


By state and territory:

  • Queenslanders were found to have the highest rates of cancer – including bowel cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer and were also the most likely to develop melanoma skin cancer.
  • This is also true for the small geographic area levels mapped in the Social Health Atlas of Australia. For example, for men, 14 of the 16 highest rates in these small areas, called Population Health Areas (PHAs), across the country for prostate cancer are in Queensland. Similarly, for bowel cancer, 21 of the highest 25 rates were also in Queensland. However, Queensland also has the largest number of PHAs without any of these cancers. Similarly, for breast cancer in women, 29 of the 30 Population Health Areas with the highest rates were in Queensland; and 27 of the 30 lowest rates, many with no breast cancers diagnosed, were in Queensland.

By socioeconomic status:

  • Lung cancer was more common among lower income households and cancer patients in lower socio-economic areas were also more likely to die under the age of 75.
  • Of the capital cities, Darwin has the largest disparity between PHAs for prostate cancer incidence (72% lower in the most disadvantaged compared with the most well off areas), followed by Sydney (where the gap is 38%) and Brisbane (32%).The socioeconomic gap is likely due to the use of preventive health services by people in more advantaged areas; this is of particular relevance for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  • Darwin has the largest disparity between the most well off and the most disadvantaged areas for breast cancer, with the rate for females in the most disadvantaged areas again 72% lower. Brisbane and Sydney have the widest socioeconomic gaps of the larger capital cities, of 35% and 26%, respectively.
  • In all of the capital cities other than Brisbane, areas with high rates of lung cancer for males were strongly correlated with socioeconomic disadvantage (particularly so in Hobart). For females, the association was less consistent, with strong correlations in Adelaide and Perth, very strong correlations in Hobart and Darwin, and weak or no associations in the other capitals. Despite the lack of correlation with the summary measure of disadvantage in Brisbane, there are weak correlations with poorer education outcomes.
  • For females diagnosed with breast cancer correlations with socioeconomic disadvantage are moderate to weak, other than in Sydney (strong) and Darwin (very strong).

 “Breast cancer and prostate cancer was significantly more prevalent in higher socioeconomic status areas while lung cancer was more prevalent in lower socioeconomic areas”

By remoteness:

  • Across Australia, there is a 20% lower incidence of breast cancer for females living in the Very Remote areas, when compared with the Major Cities.
  • The difference in rates across these remoteness classes is much larger in some states, with the rates of breast cancer incidence in the Very Remote areas of Western Australia 42% lower than in Major Cities.
  • The remoteness differential in the Northern Territory (between Outer Regional, i.e., Darwin and Very Remote areas) is 31%, and in South Australia, it is 23%, with less than 10% variation in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
  • Of the cancers in this analysis, lung cancer for men and women, and head and neck cancer for men had consistently higher incidence rates in the most remote areas.

PHIDU at Torrens University regularly updates the site when it receives new data. To learn more visit: 

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