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Survival of NZ cancer patients improves

21 December 2010

Media Release

Survival of NZ cancer patients improves

Survival of New Zealand adults with cancer has improved in the 10 years to 2007, according to a report released today by the Ministry of Health.

The report noted that between 1998 and 2007, survival of adults with cancer improved from a ratio of 0.576 to 0.623 after five years of follow-up. A survival ratio of 0.623 means the rate of survival of people diagnosed with cancer is 62 per cent when compared with a group from the general population of the same age and sex.

“Although survival in both males and females improved, survival ratios differed in terms of sex, ethnicity, extent of disease at diagnosis, and level of deprivation,” said Dr John Childs, National Clinical Director of the Ministry of Health's cancer programme.

“In general, males had slightly lower survival ratios than females, and Māori had lower survival ratios than non-Māori. Extent of disease at diagnosis also impacted greatly on patient survival.”

Dr Childs cited that of the 24 adult cancer sites covered in the report, cancer of the pancreas had the lowest survival outcomes over five and 10 years of follow-up. Testicular cancer showed the best survival ratios.

“Prostate cancer, with a five-year survival ratio of 0.862, also had one of the highest survival gain of the adult cancer sites,” according to him.

“Survival from childhood cancers improved between 1998 and 2005, and dropped in 2006 and 2007, possibly due to a change in the system of registering cancers.”

Cancer survival is calculated by comparing the number of people who died with cancer (with follow-up over a period of up to 10 years) with the number of people in the general population who would have been expected to die over the same period.

“A ratio of ‘zero’ means none of the patients survived and ‘one’ indicates patients experienced mortality rates no higher than those in a comparable group from the general population,” Dr Childs explained.

“Typically, cancer five- and 10-year survival ratios are well below one, reflecting greater mortality among cancer patients compared to the general population.”

The report Cancer Patient Survival Covering the Period 1994 to 2007 is available on the Ministry of Health’s website:


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