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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2013 Jun;37(3):218-25. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12062.

The burden of cancer in New Zealand: a comparison of incidence and DALY metrics and its relevance for ethnic disparities.

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School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Health and Disability Intelligence Unit, Ministry of Health, New Zealand Department of Public Health, University of Otago, New Zealand.



Cancer burden measured in disability adjusted life years (DALYs) captures survival and disability impacts of incident cancers. In this paper, we estimate the prospective burden of disease arising from 27 cancer sites diagnosed in 2006, by sex and ethnicity; and determine how its distribution differs from that for incidence rates alone.


Using a prospective approach, Markov and cancer disease models were used to estimate DALYs with inputs of population counts, incidence and excess mortality rates, disability weights, and background mortality. DALYs were discounted at 3.5% per year.


The age standardised Māori:non-Māori incidence rate ratios were 1.00 for males and 1.19 for females, whereas for DALYs they were greater at 1.42 for males and 1.68 for females. The total burden of cancer for 2006 incident cases (i.e. not age standardised) was estimated to be approximately 127,000 DALYs. Breast (27%), lung (14%) and colorectal (13%) cancers for females and lung (16%), colorectal (14%), and prostate (16%) cancers for males were the top contributors. By ethnicity, Māori experienced a substantially higher burden from lung cancer (around 25% for both sexes).


Due to Māori both having higher rates of cancers with a worse survival (e.g. lung cancer), and tending to have worse survival for each cancer site, ethnic disparities in the age-standardised DALY burden were greater than those for incidence (rate ratios of 1.52 and 1.07 respectively, sexes pooled).

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