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Study finds higher incidence for several cancers among Métis adults in Canada

March 19, 2018

3 min read

Canadian Métis adults also found to have poorer survival from prostate cancer 

TORONTO, ON (March 19, 2018) – A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found that Métis adults in Canada have significantly higher incidence rates for lung cancer in both males and females; liver, larynx and gallbladder cancers; and female breast and cervix cancers than non-Aboriginal adults. Métis men also had significantly poorer five-year relative survival (i.e., the percentage of people still alive for five years after being diagnosed) for prostate cancer. Incidence rates were significantly lower for melanoma and leukemia in Métis adults and for colorectal cancer in Métis women, compared to non-Aboriginal people.

The study is the first nationwide effort to examine cancer incidence in Métis, and the first-ever study of cancer survival in Métis. The findings are consistent with a provincial study conducted in partnership by Cancer Care Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario showing that cancer risk is significantly higher for several types of cancer among Métis people in Canada when compared with the non-Aboriginal Canadian population. The study reinforces the urgent need for interventions to improve health outcomes for Métis people across the country.

“The cancer burden in Métis people has been understudied in Canada, so this study substantially increases our knowledge of cancer risk and prognosis in this community,” says Dr. Loraine Marrett, Senior Scientist Emeritus, Cancer Care Ontario. “This study shows us that action is needed to reduce the incidence of cancer, improve survival and provide better health outcomes for Métis people.”

Using national administrative databases, study authors from Cancer Care Ontario, the Métis National Council, Statistics Canada and the University of Toronto estimated cancer incidence rates and survival in Métis adults in Canada from 1992 to 2009 and compared these to incidence and survival among non-Aboriginal Canadians.

“The limited existing research on cancer in Canadian Métis has suggested that the burden of the disease is growing, and that prevention and control should be a priority for health programming,” says Clara Morin Dal Col, Métis Nation Minister of Health. “Quantifying this burden, examining trends, considering determinants of risk, and identifying the specific cancer sites that are most common among Canadian Métis will be integral in guiding our prevention and control efforts.”

Key study findings:

  • Métis adults had significantly higher incidence of lung, female breast, cervix, liver, larynx and gallbladder cancers compared to non-Aboriginal people. Several of these cancer types are associated with lifestyle risk factors such as exposure to tobacco smoke and obesity.
  • The higher incidence of cervical cancer among Métis women suggests that improvements in cervical screening participation may lead to benefits. Screening for cervical cancer can detect cell changes in the cervix before they become cancerous.
  • Métis men had significantly poorer five-year relative survival rates for prostate cancer. There were no significant differences between Métis and non-Aboriginal adults for survival of other cancers.
  • The poorer survival of Métis men with prostate cancer requires further research to identify the causes of the disparity and, where appropriate, potential actions to reduce them.


“A number of factors need to be addressed to reduce cancer incidence and improve survival among Métis people,” says Alethea Kewayosh, Director, Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit, Cancer Care Ontario. “It is important that we, and our partners across the country in collaboration with the Métis, use the information presented in this study to inform culturally appropriate prevention and cancer control strategies to reduce the burden of cancer for Métis people in Canada.”

The study was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Open Operating Grant entitled "Cancer incidence and survival in First Nations and Métis adults in Canada: follow-up of the 1991 census cohort." It is also aligned with Cancer Care Ontario's Aboriginal Cancer Strategy, which highlights research and surveillance, prevention and education as key priorities.

About Cancer Care Ontario:

Cancer Care Ontario, a division of CCO, equips health professionals, organizations and policy-makers with the most up-to-date cancer knowledge and tools to prevent cancer and deliver high-quality patient care.

It does this by collecting and analyzing data about cancer services and combining it with evidence and research that is shared with the healthcare community in the form of guidelines and standards. It also monitors and measures the performance of the cancer system, and oversees a funding and governance model that ties funding to performance, making healthcare providers more accountable and ensuring value for investments in the system.

Cancer Care Ontario actively engages people with cancer and their families in the design, delivery and evaluation of Ontario’s cancer system, and works to improve the performance of Ontario’s cancer system by driving quality, accountability, innovation and value.

For more information, please contact:
Cancer Care Ontario Media Relations
Phone: 1-855-460-2646

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