Unmasking Australia’s cancer burden

By on 25 September, 2018

A new interactive tool uses the latest available data to give a highly detailed breakdown of Australia’s cancer rates, suburb by suburb.

The Australian Cancer Atlas is an interactive digital analysis tool that displays cancer incidence patterns and survival rates for Australia’s 20 most common cancers.

The atlas project was led by researchers from Cancer Council Queensland, in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and FrontierSI, and the project’s creators say that the tool has the potential to give health agencies and policy makers a better understanding of geographic disparities and health requirements across the country.

Dr. Graeme Kernich, CEO of FrontierSI, said that the atlas has been highly successful in bringing together Cancer Council registries, universities, health departments and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to deliver a unique resource.

“This was an Australia-wide project linking different data sets to simply and seamlessly visualise the effects of cancer on our population through a spatial lens,” he said.

“It is promising for many areas of our digital economy just how well the team traversed the intersection of government and academia to deliver such an important piece of infrastructure. The online atlas visually tells a complex story simply, for anyone to explore.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO, Ms. Chris McMillan, said that the variance in the data between localities likely reflected the characteristics, lifestyles and access to health services in the area.

“In 2018 an estimated 138,000 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer, but we know that some people face greater risks of diagnosis and death than others, due to a mix of lifestyle, behaviour, genetics and other unknown factors,” she said.

“This project builds on years of work by Cancer Council Queensland to better understand the cancer divide between metropolitan and rural areas, and map the gaps linked to socio-economic status and other demographic factors.”

The estimates accessible in the Australian Cancer Atlas were calculated with statistical models and spatial analyses developed by statisticians from QUT and Cancer Council Queensland, using data provided by each of the Australian state and territory Cancer Council registries.

The online atlas is powered by myGlobe, a state-of-the-art digital system that has been developed and enhanced specifically for the atlas by the Visualisation and eResearch team at QUT.

Professor Peter Baade, senior research fellow with Cancer Council Queensland, said that rural and remote areas of the country continued to experience higher excess death rates for many cancers.

“There is still a long way to go to understand the reasons for all the geographic disparities but the atlas is designed to motivate and accelerate the pace of targeted research in areas that need it the most,” he said.

Access the Australian Cancer Atlas here.

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