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Study Provides Insights for Targeted Cancer Prevention in Erie St. Clair

March 15, 2017

TORONTO, ON (March 14, 2017) – A study led by a team based out of Cancer Care Ontario in partnership with Lambton Public Health has found elevated rates of tobacco smoking and excess body weight among residents of the Erie St. Clair region—and those rates vary among certain neighbourhoods.

Smoking and excess body weight are two of the most common behavioural risk factors associated with preventable chronic diseases, including cancer. This study is among the first in Canada to look at the rates of risk factors among people in small neighbourhood areas (average of 400 to 700 people) as opposed to more common macro-level studies that look at national or provincial rates. The results show there are differences in people’s behaviours even within a city or county.

“Most of the information we have about chronic disease risk factors in Ontario is based on sample surveys that don’t provide community-level insights,” says Dr. Prithwish De, Director, Surveillance and Cancer Registry, Analytics & Informatics, Cancer Care Ontario. “Focusing our analysis on a small neighbourhood allows us to identify areas of concern and provide the local public health unit with information they can use for program planning.”

In this study, which was published in June 2016, researchers found differences in rates of smoking and excess weight within the Erie St. Clair region. For example, estimated rates of current smoking were much higher among men in downtown Windsor and the industrial area in southern Sarnia compared to the provincial average. (See Figure 1.)

In addition, excess body weight was more common among people living in the rural areas of Essex County compared to the rest of Erie St. Clair and the provincial average. This trend was particularly notable among men. (See Figure 2.)

“There is an increasing interest among researchers to examine the prevalence of chronic disease risk factors in small communities,” says Crystal Palleschi, Epidemiologist, Lambton Public Health. “From a public health perspective, these data increase our understanding of variations in risk factors across geographic areas. It can also be combined with other evidence to inform future programs and interventions.”

Lambton Public Health works with multiple stakeholders to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases at the population level. They work directly with residents through various health promotion programs, including smoking cessation programs, student nutrition programs in schools, and workplace wellness programs. 
Figure 1: Smoking prevalence among men in Erie St. Clair.

graph of smokers

The highest rates of smoking (circled area) in the region are clustered in downtown Windsor and neighbourhoods in southern Sarnia.
Figure 2: Excess body weight prevalence among men in Erie St. Clair

bodyweight graph of smokers

While rates of excess body weight are higher in Erie St. Clair compared to the rest of the province, this trend is particularly notable among men in areas of Essex County (circled area).
DA = dissemination area, i.e., the smallest geographical unit for which Statistics Canada releases the complete set of Census data (populations of 400 to 700 people, on average).

About this study

This research was conducted by a team of researchers from Cancer Care Ontario, Dalla Lana School of Public Health (University of Toronto), Public Health Ontario and Lambton Public Health, and was funded by the Environment-Cancer Fund at the Cancer Research Society and Read for the Cure. The study was published in BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health in June 2016.
About Cancer Care Ontario

Cancer Care Ontario 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.

About the Cancer Research Society

Founded in 1945, the Cancer Research Society is a national not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to fund research on all types of cancer, thereby contributing to the advancement of science aimed at preventing, detecting, and treating this disease.
About Read for the Cure

Since 2006, Read for the Cure – a volunteer organization made up of book club members from the Toronto area – has been organizing literary evening bringing together readers and celebrated writers, while raising funds for cancer research. All proceeds from their events are donated to the Cancer Research Society for research into environmental links to cancer. Read for the Cure Foundation Inc. is a Canadian non-profit charity foundation in Canada only.

For more information, please contact:

Cancer Care Ontario
Phone: 1.855.460.2646
Version française disponible.