The north-south and east-west gradient in colorectal cancer risk: A look at the distribution of modifiable risk factors and incidence across Canada
Authors: J. Tung, C. E. Politis, J. Chadder, J. Han, J. Niu, S. Fung, R. Rahal, and C. C. Earle
Colorectal cancer (crc) is the 2nd most common cancer in Canada and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death. That heavy burden can be mitigated given the preventability of crc through lifestyle changes and screening. Here, we describe the extent of the variation in crc incidence rates across Canada and the disparities, by jurisdiction, in the prevalence of modifiable risk factors known to contribute to the crc burden. Findings suggest that there is a north-south and east-west gradient in crc modifiable risk factors, including excess weight, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, and low fruit and vegetable consumption, with the highest prevalence of risk factors typically found in the territories and Atlantic provinces. In general, that pattern reflects the crc incidence rates seen across Canada. Given the substantial interjurisdictional variation, more work is needed to increase prevention efforts, including promoting a healthier diet and lifestyle, especially in jurisdictions facing disproportionately higher burdens of crc. Based on current knowledge, the most effective approaches to reduce the burden of crc include adopting public policies that create healthier environments in which people live, work, learn, and play; making healthy choices easier; and continuing to emphasize screening and early detection. Strategic approaches to modifiable risk factors and mechanisms for early cancer detection have the potential to translate into positive effects for population health and fewer Canadians developing and dying from cancer.
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