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Australian Cancer Atlas 2.0 Technical report

Below you can read an overview of the terminology used in the Atlas. The Australian Cancer Atlas 2.0 provides a detailed view of how the impact of cancer varies across different areas of Australia. It focuses on six types of indicators to understand the variations in cancer risk factors, diagnosis, survival, screening or testing, selected hospital treatments and clinical characteristics.

For more detailed technical information on the Atlas 2.0, including methods, technology, data sources or visualisations, please refer to the online Technical Report.



The Atlas examines lifestyle-related factors that contribute to cancer risk, including smoking, alcohol consumption, inadequate diet, insufficient physical activity, obesity, and risky waist circumference. These factors were selected based on consultations with experts and evidence from research studies.


This term refers to new cases of cancer. To present a more complete picture, the Atlas shows how areas’ cancer diagnosis rates compare with the Australian average. These rates take into account the age and population of an area.  The Atlas also provides the modelled number of cancers diagnosed in each area.


In the Atlas, cancer survival is defined as the percentage of people alive five years after their diagnosis. It focuses on cancer-related survival and adjusts for non-cancer related mortality by comparing the overall survival of cancer patients with the expected survival within the general population, using a method known as relative survival.


The Atlas includes information on participation in the publicly-funded breast cancer (BreastScreen Australia), cervical (National Cervical Screening Program), and bowel cancer (National Bowel Cancer Screening Program) screening programs. Note that it does not include screening activities that are conducted with private clinics. In addition, the Atlas includes information about the use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, which is not part of a recognised screening program in Australia.


Geographical patterns are reported for selected treatments for prostate cancer. These treatments were conducted within public and private hospitals as admitted patients, such as radical prostatectomy and brachytherapy. Note that common treatments for prostate cancer, such as external beam radiotherapy, are not included. 


The Atlas mainly provides information about geographical patterns for invasive cancers, which are cancers that have grown into the normal cell tissue. For some cancer types (melanoma and breast cancer), the Atlas separately includes diagnosis information on in situ tumours, which are tumours that have not yet grown into the normal cell tissue. For melanoma, it also provides spatial patterns separately by melanoma thickness, while for the 2011 calendar year only, provides spatial patterns by stage at diagnosis for melanoma, breast and prostate cancer.


The Atlas reports measures separately for males, females, and persons. It also includes information about sex-specific cancers, like prostate and testicular cancer for males, and breast, cervical, ovarian, uterine, and vulval cancer for females. Note that due to small numbers of breast cancers diagnosed among males, it is not possible to report geographical patterns for breast cancer among males.


The geographical areas within the Atlas are defined using Statistical Area 2 (SA2), which is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In addition, the  Atlas groups these SA2s into broader regions, including remoteness areas, area-level socio-economic groups, states/territories, and capital city areas, to visualise how rates vary within these broader regions.


The coloured maps describe the rate in one geographical area compared to the Australian average. This is what is known as a relative measure.


The maps with circles on it show the modelled number of people who live in the area who have the outcome of interest. For example, the number of people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or who have survived for five years.

How to use the Australian Cancer Atlas 2.0

If you’d like help navigating the Australian Cancer Atlas 2.0, head to our How to Use for detailed instructions for gathering insights and understanding what they mean.