Regional differences in cancer rates reported

( Maps which clearly show the regional differences in cancer incidence and deaths have been included for the first time in a suite of cancer reports released today.

The three reports, published jointly by the Ministry of Health and the National Health Board, detail statistical information held in the national collections.

They are Cancer: New Registrations and Deaths 2008, Cancer: Major Sites by DHB region of residence 2006 – 2008 and Cancer: Historical Summary 1948 – 2008.

Cancer: New Registrations and Deaths 2008, which is produced annually, includes a new chapter which compares cancer incidence and mortality by District Health Board (DHB) region.

Shaded maps are used to illustrate which DHBs have significantly higher or lower rates of cancer than the national rate.

The maps show that Northland, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and Canterbury DHBs had significantly more cancer registrations than the national rate and Counties Manukau, Capital and Coast, Wairarapa, Hutt Valley, Otago and Southland DHBs had registration rates that were significantly lower than the national rate.

Northland, Waikato, Lakes, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Whanganui and Otago DHBs had significantly higher cancer death rates than the national rate, and Waitemata, Auckland, Capital and Coast and Canterbury had significantly lower death rates.

National Clinical Director, Cancer Programme, Dr John Childs, says the publications are statistical reports and as such do not attempt to explain the observations.

“The data leads to quite a number of questions which are not answered by the publication and as such, are likely to spark the interest of health researchers,” he says.

The information was considered so interesting it was expanded and packaged into a separate companion publication Cancer: Major Sites by DHB region of residence 2006 – 2008. In addition to total rates of cancer, this publication breaks down the information to show the regional rates for lung, colorectal, prostate and female breast cancer.

Information in the report has not been adjusted to account for differences in either ethnicity or socioeconomic deprivation, which affect rates of registrations and deaths to some extent.

Dr Childs says “This means it’s important to look at the population structure in different areas when reading this report. For instance, we know that Māori populations have higher rates of cancer and that people who are most deprived generally have poorer health outcomes.”

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for 29 percent of all deaths.

The most commonly registered cancer in 2008 was prostate cancer. Colorectal and breast cancer were the next most commonly registered sites.

Lung cancer remained the leading cause of cancer death in 2008, followed by colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.

The publications are available at

Media Release on 16 June 2011 from the Ministry of Health.