Nunavut owns Canada’s highest cancer death rate: report

Territory’s cancer death rates soar high above incidence rates


A cross-section of a human lung: The white area in the upper lobe is cancer. The black areas are discoloration due to smoking. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IMAGE)

A cross-section of a human lung: The white area in the upper lobe is cancer. The black areas are discoloration due to smoking. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IMAGE)

A report from the Canadian Cancer Society released May 30 shows that when cancer strikes Nunavut residents, it kills at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country.

The numbers, based on data from Statistics Canada and other sources, show the incidence rate of cancer in Nunavut — 382 per 100,000 — is lower than in most other jurisdictions.

It’s also lower than the Canada-wide rate of 467 per 100,000.

But despite that, the death rate from cancer in Nunavut, especially among women, soars high above cancer death rates reported in all other provinces and territories.

Between 2005 and 2009, Nunavut’s cancer death rate for men was 391 per 100,000, far above the Canada-wide rate of 192 per 100,00.

For women, the cancer death rate was 330 per 100,000, compared with a rate of only 137 per 100,000 across Canada.

The big killers in Nunavut appear to be lung and colorectal cancers, for men and women alike.

The death rates for lung cancer among Nunavut women is about five times greater than for Canada as a whole and the lung cancer death rate for Nunavut men is about four times greater.

For colorectal cancers among men and women, Nunavut’s death rate is roughly four times greater than Canada.

The report provides only limited information on breast cancers among Nunavut women and prostate cancers among Nunavut men, and little of it is up to date as of 2012.

But it does give an estimate of Nunavut’s 2012 female breast cancer rate for 2012: 53 per 100,000, about half the national rate of 99 per 100,000.

And the report estimates that about 55 people — 30 men and 25 women — will die of cancer in Nunavut this year.

A separate Statistics Canada report shows the raw numbers for new cancer cases detected in Nunavut between 2005 and 2009: they range from 73 new cases detected in 2005 to 54 cases detected in 2009.

The Nunavut numbers, which show a middling incidence rate but a high death rate for cancer, are consistent with a study released May 13 on avoidable deaths.

That report, from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, shows Nunavut suffers the highest rate of avoidable deaths in Canada.

An Ellie Cansfield, a Rankin Inlet resident whose husband died of cancer, has criticized the Nunavut health department for failing to develop a cancer care and detection strategy.

This year’s report from the Canadian Cancer Society was designed to draw attention to liver cancer.

But the report gives no liver cancer statistics for Nunavut.

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