Breast Cancer in Australian Indigenous Women: Incidence, Mortality, and Risk Factors

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


1 Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

2 Menzies School of Health Research, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

3 Sydney Breast Clinic, New South Wales, Australia.


The Indigenous people of Australia face significant health gaps compared with the general population, with lower life expectancies, higher rates of death, and chronic illness occurring more often than in non-indigenous Australians. Cancer is the second largest contributor to the burden of disease with breast cancer being the most common invasive cancer diagnosed for females. Despite a lower breast cancer incidence compared with non-indigenous women, fatalities occur at an elevated rate and breast cancers have an earlier age of onset. For indigenous women there are also more advanced and distant tumours at diagnosis, fewer hospitalisations for breast cancer, and lower participation in breast screening. Concomitantly there are demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle factors associated with breast cancer risks that are heavily represented within Indigenous communities. The aim of this two-part narrative review is to examine the available evidence on breast cancer and its risk factors in Australian Indigenous women. Part One presents a summary of the latest incidence, survival and mortality data. Part Two presents the risk factors most strongly associated with breast cancer including age, place of residence, family risk, genetics, reproductive history, tobacco use, alcohol intake, physical activity, participation in screening and breast density. With increasing emphasis on personalized health care, a clear understanding of breast cancer incidence, survival, mortality, and causal agents within the Indigenous population is required if breast cancer prevention and management is to be optimized for Indigenous Australians.


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