Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 29, Issue 11, pp 1059–1069 | Cite as

Differences in cancer survival by sex: a population-based study using cancer registry data

  • Nina AfsharEmail author
  • Dallas R. English
  • Vicky Thursfield
  • Paul L. Mitchell
  • Luc Te Marvelde
  • Helen Farrugia
  • Graham G. Giles
  • Roger L. Milne
Original paper



Few large-scale studies have investigated sex differences in cancer survival and little is known about their temporal and age-related patterns.


We used cancer registry data for first primary cancers diagnosed between 1982 and 2015 in Victoria, Australia. Cases were followed until the end of 2015 through linkage to death registries. Differences in survival were assessed for 25 cancers using the Pohar-Perme estimator of net survival and the excess mortality rate ratio (EMRR) adjusting for age and year of diagnosis.


Five-year net survival for all cancers combined was lower for men (47.1%; 95% CI 46.9–47.4) than women (52.0%; 95% CI 51.7–52.3); EMRR 1.13 (95% CI 1.12–1.14; p < 0.001). A survival disadvantage for men was observed for 11 cancers: head and neck, esophagus, colorectum, pancreas, lung, bone, melanoma, mesothelioma, kidney, thyroid, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In contrast, women had lower survival from cancers of the bladder, renal pelvis, and ureter. For the majority of cancers with survival differences, the EMRR decreased with increasing age at diagnosis; for colorectal, esophageal, and kidney cancer, the EMRR increased with time since diagnosis.


Identifying the underlying reasons behind sex differences in cancer survival is necessary to address inequalities, which may improve outcomes for men and women.


Sex differences Inequalities Cancer registries Survival analysis Cancer survival Excess mortality 



Nina Afshar is the recipient of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

Ethical approval to conduct the analyses of these data was granted by the Cancer Council Victoria Human Research Ethics Committee. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cancer Epidemiology and Intelligence DivisionCancer Council VictoriaMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population and Global HealthThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Victorian Cancer RegistryCancer Council VictoriaMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Medical Oncology, Austin HealthOlivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research CentreHeidelbergAustralia
  5. 5.Cancer Strategy and DevelopmentDepartment of Health and Human ServicesMelbourneAustralia

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