Comorbidities contribute to the risk of cancer death among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal South Australians: Analysis of a matched cohort study

David Banham, David Roder, Alex Brown, for the CanDAD Aboriginal Community Reference Group and other CanDAD investigators

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Background Aboriginal Australians have poorer cancer survival than other Australians. Diagnoses at later stages and correlates of remote area living influence, but do not fully explain, these disparities. Little is known of the prevalence and influence of comorbid conditions experienced by Aboriginal people, including their effect on cancer survival. This study quantifies hospital recorded comorbidities using the Elixhauser Comorbidity Index (ECI), examines their influence on risk of cancer death, then considers effect variation by Aboriginality. Methods Cancers diagnosed among Aboriginal South Australians in 1990–2010 (N = 777) were matched with randomly selected non-Aboriginal cases by birth year, diagnostic year, sex, and primary site, then linked to administrative hospital records to the time of diagnosis. Competing risk regression summarised associations of Aboriginal status, stage, geographic attributes and comorbidities with risk of cancer death. Results A threshold of four or more ECI conditions was associated with increased risk of cancer death (sub-hazard ratio SHR 1.66, 95%CI 1.11-2.46). Alternatively, the presence of any one of a subset of ECI conditions was associated with similarly increased risk (SHR = 1.62, 95%CI 1.23-2.14). The observed effects did not differ between Aboriginal and matched non-Aboriginal cases. However, Aboriginal cases experienced three times higher exposure than non-Aboriginal to four or more ECI conditions (14.2% versus 4.5%) and greater exposure to the subset of ECI conditions (20.7% versus 8.0%). Conclusion Comorbidities at diagnosis increased the risk of cancer death in addition to risks associated with Aboriginality, remoteness of residence and disease stage at diagnosis. The Aboriginal cohort experienced comparatively greater exposure to comorbidities which adds to disparities in cancer outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Feb 2018


  • Aboriginal
  • Cancer
  • Cancer stage
  • Comorbidity
  • Disparity
  • Geographic remoteness
  • Indigenous
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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