New appointment advances cancer
of Lis Ellison-Loschmann as Mäori Health Research Fellow
at the Centre for Public Health Research represents a significant
step forward for cancer research within the University, says
Centre Director Professor Neil Pearce. Her four-year Postdoctoral
Research Fellowship is funded by the Health Research Council
of New Zealand, and includes two years at the International Agency
for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
One in four people get cancer at some time in their lives and one
in five die from it. We also know the differences between Mäori
and non-Mäori life expectancy rates are partly due to cancer.”
Cancer is a major public health issue in New Zealand, as in other
developed countries. It ranks second as a cause of death (after
cardiovascular disease), accounting for more than a quarter of
all deaths in the late 1990s. Furthermore, the burden of cancer – especially
tobacco-related cancer – falls disproportionately on Mäori
and on poor individuals, families and communities, so contributing
to health inequality. Most importantly, the causes of many cancers
are understood and significant proportions are preventable or amenable
to early detection through screening and subsequent follow-up treatment.
Cancer is included as a priority objective in the New Zealand Health
Strategy, launched in 2000.
Ms Ellison-Loschmann (Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Te Atiawa, and
Ngai Tahu) will study the incidence, mortality and survival from
cancer among Mäori.
She will investigate factors that influence cancer survival including
age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and features of the
cancer itself. She will also investigate possible explanations
for socioeconomic and ethnic differences in cancer survival, as
well as researching occupational cancer and exposure to occupational
carcinogens in Mäori.
The main study that she will work on during the postdoctoral fellowship
is a case-control study of breast cancer in Mäori. Recent
research suggests that Mäori would be expected to have lower
breast cancer rates that non-Mäori because of the larger number
of children and earlier age at first birth among Mäori (both
of which may protect against breast cancer). However, available
evidence suggests cancer mortality is significantly higher among
Mäori than non-Mäori, and breast cancer incidence may
also be higher.
Ms Ellison-Loschmann says she started a pilot study in August,
drawn from Mäori, Pacific and other ethnicities. “The
purpose of the pilot study is to test the instruments and process
and adjust them if necessary,” she says. “Cancer survival
rates among Mäori appear to be lower than for others. This
raises questions about access to health care, and access through
care, once you are in the system.”
27 August, 2004