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New Report Highlights Opportunities to Improve Cancer Prevention Across Various Sectors in Ontario

October 18, 2016

4 min read

Cancer Care Ontario Releases 2016 Prevention System Quality Index


    Cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in the province. One in 2 Ontarians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 will die from the disease, but as many as half of all cancers could be prevented by eliminating known lifestyle, occupational and environmental risk factors. According to a report released today by Cancer Care Ontario, more can be done across various sectors to improve the health of Ontarians so that fewer people develop cancer.

    The 2016 Prevention System Quality Index: Monitoring Ontario’s Efforts in Cancer Prevention is the second report by Cancer Care Ontario focused on indicators of policies and programs that can reduce cancer risk factors and exposures in the population. The report identifies achievements and gaps in the prevention system and highlights opportunities to advance cancer prevention in Ontario.

    "Targeting specific risk factors and exposures is key to improving the overall health of Ontarians, and ultimately, reducing the burden of cancer," says Dr. Linda Rabeneck, Vice-President, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario. "While there are already policies and programs in place in Ontario, the Prevention System Quality Index shows that there are still many opportunities to work with our multi-sectorial partners to create healthier environments and supports that could prevent cancer."

    This year’s Prevention System Quality Index reports on 21 policy and program indicators related to tobacco, alcohol, healthy eating, physical activity, ultraviolet radiation, environmental carcinogens (radon and fine particulate matter), occupational carcinogens (formaldehyde and nickel) and infectious agents (human papillomavirus and hepatitis B).

    Key findings and opportunities include:

    • Approximately 30% of cancer deaths are caused by tobacco smoking. To reduce smoking, the World Health Organization recommends a 75% minimum tax on the total retail price of tobacco. As of April 2016, tobacco taxes in Ontario were just 65% of the average total tobacco retail price, which means that a substantial increase in tobacco taxes in the province is needed. Ontario has the second lowest tax rate on tobacco in Canada.
    • Each year, an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 new cancer cases in Ontario are caused by alcohol consumption. Privatizing alcohol outlets and increasing the physical availability of alcohol may increase alcohol consumption in the population. Ongoing monitoring will be required to determine whether alcohol consumption will increase as a result of the Ontario government’s recent decisions to offer the online sale of alcohol and allow up to 450 grocery stores to sell beer, wine and cider over the next few years.
    • There is evidence that increased consumption of foods containing dietary fibre reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, and that eating non-starchy vegetables and fruit probably reduces the risk of some cancers. Adults and some children who can’t afford nutritious food tend to eat significantly fewer servings of vegetables and fruit than those who can afford nutritious food. In 2014, 11.9% of households in Ontario had poor access to nutritious food due to a lack of financial resources (referred to as food insecurity), and access worsened for some households from 2005 to 2014. Increases in the general minimum wage, social assistance and the employment insurance benefit, as well as implementing other poverty reduction policies, could help increase access to nutritious food.
    • Physical activity reduces the risk of colon cancer, and probably reduces the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Active transportation (walking and bicycling) is used in about one fifth of trips taken to or from work by adults in the Greater Golden Horseshoe regions. Most of these trips are taken to or from public transit, suggesting that public transit is an important contributor to physical activity.
    • Radon exposure is an established cause of lung cancer, with the risk increasing at higher levels of exposure. Approximately one quarter of homes surveyed in Ontario have radon concentrations greater than or equal to 100 Bq/m³, the average annual radon concentration at which the World Health Organization recommends remedial action. High radon concentrations in Ontario homes can be reduced by including radon prevention measures as part of a mandatory building code for new houses or major renovations, and by testing and undertaking remediation in existing homes.
    • Occupational cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in Ontario. Asbestos causes mesothelioma, as well as cancers of the lung, larynx and ovary. Approximately 52,000 workers in Ontario are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. The most common current occupational exposure to asbestos occurs through the construction industry. Ontario’s asbestos register should be expanded to collect data on all workers who may have been exposed to this carcinogen and it should identify asbestos-containing public buildings.

    View a full copy of the 2016 Prevention System Quality Index report.

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