Utilisation of spatial cancer models: A national cancer atlas.

Building on the success of the Atlas of Cancer in Queensland, the new national digital atlas will allow health agencies, policy makers and the community to understand the location and resource requirements for the most common cancers diagnosed in Australia, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.

Each year, more than 120,000 Australians are diagnosed with cancer.  From state- and territory-based reports we know there are differences in cancer incidence, survival and screening practices depending on where people live. We don’t know how these patterns compare nationally. Australia is such a vast nation, so understanding what small-area differences exist across the country as a whole, and the magnitude of any differences, is vital for decision makers. The challenge for researchers however, is ensuring these small area estimations are reliable, useful and consistent across all states without jeopardising privacy and confidentiality.

The National Cancer Atlas will be underpinned by complex statistical models developed by award winning statisticians from CCQ and QUT, and will involve smoothing between areas to help circumvent issues with small numbers, and incorporate measures of uncertainty. This Atlas will be an online, interactive digital resource, with a strong focus on using novel visualisation methods that will guide end users to appropriately interpret the significance of the geographical patterns.

This 18-month research project will influence Australia’s health policy and localised approach to cancer screening, intervention and treatment.

Multiple agencies are involved in this research – the CRCSI, QUT, CCQ and the AIHW– which bring together leading skills in statistical modelling, epidemiological research, digital architecture and a suite of data products.

Future opportunities exist to expand the National Cancer Atlas to become a broader disease atlas encompassing other non-communicable disease outcomes.

Project Partners

QUT – Cancer Council Queensland – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Department of Health

Project Leaders

Kerrie MengersenProf Kerrie Mengersen


Peter Baade

    Prof Peter Baade