Cancer Inequalities in Canada


Fraser Clarke

Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has shown high cancer rates amongst one of the biggest mixed-race groups in the country.

The findings, which were published last week, show that Canadian Métis women (one of the country’s three designated Aboriginal groups) had a significantly higher incidence of most types of Cancer, however rates amongst men were similar to non-Aboriginal groups.

Along with Inuit and First Nations people, the Métis population are one of three groups recognised by the Canadian constitution as an Aboriginal people. The Métis usually descend from white and American Indian mixed heritage backgrounds.

As with other Aboriginal groups worldwide, the Métis people have higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment, obesity and smoking - whilst their diets are also less healthy than those consumed by the average Canadian.

That perhaps goes some way to explaining why the rates are higher in these groups, however the recent research has shown that the problem is even more historical.

It illustrates a trend whereby Métis adults were significantly younger, and had lower educational and employment rates, when they were diagnosed. Higher than average rates of lung, liver, gallbladder and larynx Cancer were also noted - although leukemia and melanoma rates were lower than the national average.

Dr Loraine Marrett of Cancer Care Ontario highlighted the major issues uncovered. She said: “The cancer burden of Métis people has been understudied in Canada, so this study substantially increases our knowledge of cancer risk and prognosis in the community. 

“The evidence found in this study shows us that more action is needed to reduce the incidence of cancer, improve survival rates and provide better health outcomes for Métis people.”

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