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New data shows higher rates of cancer and more cancer deaths in First Nations people

November 20, 2018

4 min read

Report examines 20 years of cancer statistics for First Nations people in Ontario

A new report developed jointly by Cancer Care Ontario, the Chiefs of Ontario and ICES reveals higher rates of several cancers and poorer survival from certain cancers in First Nations people compared to other people in Ontario.


Cancer in First Nations People in Ontario: Incidence, Mortality, Survival and Prevalence takes a detailed look at the unique burden of cancer in First Nations people in Ontario from 1991 to 2010. The data presented in the report highlights specific inequalities and supports the development of effective health policies and programs to prevent cancer and chronic disease in First Nations people.


Key Findings (from 1991 to 2010 in Ontario)


  • First Nations people had higher rates of several cancers, including lung, colorectal, kidney and cervical cancers compared to other people in Ontario.
  • Colorectal cancer rates continued to rise in First Nations men and women, while rates decreased for other people in Ontario.
  • First Nations people had poorer survival from certain cancers compared to other people in Ontario, including breast, uterus and cervical cancer in women, and lung, prostate and oral cancer in men.  
  • Cervical cancer cases declined in First Nations women, approaching the rate among other women in Ontario.

The report calls for the development of prevention efforts that are specific to First Nations people in Ontario and led by First Nations communities. Efforts to reduce cancer risk factors among First Nations people will decrease the number of cancer cases, as well as other chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart and respiratory diseases.

Cancer Care Ontario, the Chiefs of Ontario and ICES have worked in partnership to track cancer patterns in First Nations people in Ontario. This report is intended to provide First Nations communities and other decision-makers with a greater understanding of how cancer affects First Nations people in Ontario and to support them to develop effective policies and programs to help prevent cancer.

The report is aligned with Cancer Care Ontario’s Aboriginal Cancer Strategy III, which places a priority on relationship building, research and surveillance, prevention, screening, palliative and end-of-life care, and education for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. It also supports the Chiefs of Ontario’s goal of providing First Nations with the information they need to take control of their health and well-being.  

A full copy of the report is available here.


To contact an Aboriginal Patient Navigator who can help First Nations and other Aboriginal cancer patients and their families, please visit Cancer Care Ontario’s website.



“The collection of current, comprehensive cancer data is a crucial step in understanding how cancer impacts First Nations people in Ontario. This report highlights opportunities for cancer prevention, and also shows us that there is more work to be done. We will continue to work with our partners to collect data to help understand and reduce the burden of cancer for First Nations people in Ontario.”
- Dr. Loraine Marrett, Senior Scientist Emeritus, Cancer Care Ontario

“This new report provides essential evidence regarding the impact that cancer has had, and continues to have, on First Nations people in Ontario. The findings show that there is still significant work needed to address high numbers of cancer cases and deaths in First Nations people, and can help inform the development and enhancement of cancer prevention initiatives across communities.”
- Carmen Jones, Research Manager, Chiefs of Ontario

“This report is a product of more than a decade of collaboration, driven by a shared commitment to improving the health and well-being of First Nations people in Ontario. By providing decision-makers with a greater understanding of how cancer affects this population, this research is an important step toward addressing inequalities in the health of First Nations people.”
- Jennifer Walker, Core Scientist/Indigenous Health Lead, ICES

“There is much more hard work that still needs to be done. We cannot forget that our people are suffering from a higher incidence of several types of cancer compared to other people in Ontario. This report will equip our communities with the necessary information and data that will empower our citizens to take control of their individual holistic health and well-being.”
- Chief R. Don Maracle, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

About the Chiefs of Ontario


The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and secretariat for collective decision-making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nations communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario. Guided by the Chiefs in Assembly, we uphold self-determination efforts of the Anishinaabek, Mushkegowuk, Onkwehonwe, and Lenape Peoples in protecting and exercising their inherent and Treaty rights. Keeping in mind the wisdom of our Elders, and the future of our youth, we continue to create the path forward in building our Nations as strong, healthy Peoples respectful of ourselves, each other, and all creation.


The activities of the Chiefs of Ontario are mandated through and guided by:


  • Resolutions passed by the Chiefs in Assembly of the 133 First Nations in Ontario
  • The Political Confederacy made up of the Grand Chiefs of Political Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and Independent First Nations
  • The elected Regional Chief for the Chiefs of Ontario.


About ICES


ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

Additional Contact Info

Chiefs of Ontario