Figures initially provided to Stuff showed 35 Northland men per 100,000 died of prostate cancer from 2010-12. That made it by far the worst prostate cancer hotspot, with almost three times the death rate of men in the Waitemata DHB area.
However, the Health Ministry has admitted the Northland figure was based on an incorrect calculation. The real rate was 19.3 deaths per 100,000 men – almost half the original figure given. That ranks the region at ninth out of 21 DHBs.
Health Ministry information group director Graeme Osborne said he had apologised to Northland DHB for the incorrect figure, which arose from a one-off calculation error. As a result, the ministry was strengthening its peer review of calculated figures for specific requests.
Northland DHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain said the board had requested a review of the ministry’s data, as it was very surprised at the high prostate cancer death rate.
“We have a very high-quality urology service and have performed our own patient audits which have shown good outcomes. It was regrettable that this isolated error in the data might have suggested otherwise.
“I want to reassure the people of Northland that the actual prostate cancer mortality rate is well within the normal range and the quality of services in Northland compares well with any in the country.”
Northland nonetheless remains New Zealand’s worst cancer hotspot overall. For every 100,000 Northlanders, there are 33 more cancer deaths for every 100,000 people compared with the area with the lowest death rate – Waitemata.
And prostate cancer death rates still vary significantly between regions. Men in South Canterbury are almost twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as men in north Auckland.