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Cancer rates in Haldimand and Norfolk compare to province

SIMCOE, ON, MAY 20, 2008 – The cancer rate in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties is not significantly different from the provincial average, according to a recent report completed by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

The Haldimand and Norfolk Cancer Report 2007, which is the first focused cancer report to be completed for Haldimand and Norfolk, provides an overview of all cancers, selected types of cancers, screening practices and selected lifestyle behaviours/risk factors in the area compared to Ontario.

“Overall, looking at the period from 1986 to 2003, we found that the average incidence rates were relatively similar in Haldimand and Norfolk and Ontario,” said report author Deanna Morris, the Health Unit’s epidemiologist. “However, we did find that in Haldimand and Norfolk, the average rate of all cancers combined was higher among males than females and somewhat higher compared to the provincial rate for both sexes.

On average, the most common types of cancer were prostate, female breast, and lung for both Haldimand and Norfolk and Ontario. From 1986 to 2003, for both Haldimand and Norfolk and Ontario, prostate cancer was the leading type of cancer diagnosed in males, followed by lung and colorectal, whereas breast cancer was the leading type in incidence among women, followed by colorectal and lung cancer.

Compared to Ontario, in Haldimand and Norfolk the average incidence rates for colorectal, uterine, bladder, malignant melanoma and oral cavity and pharynx were higher and lung cancer and leukemia were slightly higher. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was lower and pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and cancer of the brain and central nervous system were slightly lower.

For males, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer rates were higher in Haldimand and Norfolk compared to Ontario and for Haldimand and Norfolk, females’ colorectal and uterine cancer were higher than the provincial rates, whereas lung cancer was lower and breast cancer was slightly lower.

Generally the incidence of cancer was highest among older persons. For screening practices, it was found that over half the population for both Haldimand and Norfolk females age 50 to 69 receive routine screening for breast cancer with a mammogram within the last two years.

More than two-thirds of Haldimand and Norfolk females reported receiving a Pap test within the last three years. Moreover less than one-third of Haldimand and Norfolk residents age 50 and older reported ever being screened for colorectal cancer with a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), which is lower than Ontario. In Ontario, screening for colorectal cancer is still at a low level and if it were more widely adopted, it has the potential to improve survival rates, Morris said.

Overall, the average death rates from 1986 to 2003 were relatively similar in Haldimand and Norfolk compared to those in Ontario. The average mortality rates in Haldimand and Norfolk for all cancers sites were higher among males than females and were higher compared to the province.

On average lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both Haldimand and Norfolk and Ontario; followed by breast and prostate in Ontario and prostate and breast in Haldimand and Norfolk.

Similar to Ontario, for Haldimand and Norfolk males, lung cancer was leading cause of cancer deaths, followed by prostate and colorectal cancer. For Ontario females, lung, breast and colorectal cancer were the leading causes of cancer deaths. For Haldimand and Norfolk women breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths, followed by lung and colorectal.

On average lung cancer deaths from 1986 to 2003 were higher in Haldimand and Norfolk than Ontario, whereas colorectal and pancreatic cancer was slightly lower. In Haldimand and Norfolk men, lung and prostate cancer were higher, while colorectal cancer was slightly lower. In women, breast cancer was slightly higher, while lung and pancreatic cancer was slightly lower compared to the provincial rate.

For lifestyle behaviour/risk factors data, it was found that Haldimand and Norfolk residents face formidable challenges in adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours. Over half of Haldimand and Norfolk residents consumed fewer than five daily servings of vegetables and fruit (age 12 and older), reported binge drinking (age 20 and over) and were obese or overweight (age 18 and older). A higher proportion of persons smoked daily or occasionally compared to Ontarians in general and almost half of persons age 12 and older reported being inactive in their leisure time. On the other hand, a high proportion of Haldimand and Norfolk residents reported having smoke-free homes and vehicles.

Lifestyle risk factors for cancer include poor diet, smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol use and sun exposure. Programs focusing on healthy eating, physical activity and smoking cessation are provided in schools, workplaces and the community. “At the Health Unit we are working towards public policy changes that make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Health Unit Population Health Program Coordinator Jill Steen. “We also promote cancer screening programs to detect cancer early for improved health outcomes.”

Continued efforts in cancer prevention are essential to reduce cancer incidence and mortality rates,” Steen said. “Although it is encouraging that cancer incidence and mortality rates were relatively similar to Ontario, Haldimand and Norfolk still face considerable challenges in the health promotion arena, promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours and early detection cancer screening methods, particularly for colorectal cancer. One of the most significant challenges in Haldimand and Norfolk is the health disparities associated with living in a rural community. Accessibility barriers, lower socio-economic status, geographic isolation, and limited health care and support services may contribute to poor lifestyle behaviours and should be considered in future health promotion program planning and implementation. Moreover, in the past the health-care system focused on the medical model that emphasized treating disease. However, this paradigm shift from curative medicine to a more comprehensive holistic view of health and health determinants requires a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach of cancer prevention and care. Increased investments in cancer care prevention and ongoing cancer surveillance and research in public health may reduce cancer morbidity and mortality rates and improve quality of life among Haldimand and Norfolk residents.

“The report is an important document for understanding cancer trends over a period of time as well as screening practices and lifestyle behaviours in Haldimand and Norfolk compared to Ontario,” Morris said.
“It is intended to provide physicians, health-care professionals, local politicians, members of the media and Health Units with useful information for the purpose of cancer prevention.”

Media contact:
Deanna Morris, Epidemiologist
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3215