Spring/Summer 2019 NAACCR Narrative Leave a comment

New statistics on the current and future preventable burden of cancer in Canada: Findings from the ComPARe study

Prithwish De, PhD
Director, Surveillance & Cancer Registry
Cancer Care Ontario


How can we make the best use of resources to prevent cancer? The answer is: with good evidence. By identifying the relative contribution of various cancer risk factors on disease burden, health planners and decision-makers can better prioritize prevention initiatives and, subsequently, inform resource planning.

Led by Dr. Christine Friedenreich from Alberta Health Services and Dr. Darren Brenner from the University of Calgary, and in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer (ComPARe) study brought together a pan-Canadian team of researchers to estimate how many new cancer cases in Canada could be attributed to modifiable risk factors. In addition, the study estimated how changes in the prevalence of these risk factors could impact cancer incidence in the future (up to 2042). The study used a combination of data from the published literature, population health surveys and the Canadian Cancer Registry.

On behalf of my colleagues on the ComPARe study team, I’m pleased to announce that the results of the ComPARe study are now available!

Key findings

  • About 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of Canadians. About 70,200 cancer cases (out of 187,070) could have been prevented in 2015.
  • Smoking tobacco was the leading preventable cause of cancer, followed by physical inactivity, excess body weight, low fruit and sun exposure.
  • Cancers of the cervix, lung, and head and neck were the most preventable cancers.
  • If current trends continue, the number of preventable cancer cases could rise to about 111,700 in 2042.
  • By 2042, excess body weight is projected to be the second leading preventable cause of cancer, after smoking tobacco.
  • Over 11,000 smoking-related cancers and 6,000 cancers related to excess-weight could be prevented every year with a substantial reduction in these two risk factors.

Interested in learning more about the study? Check out the special issue in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Make sure to also visit the ComPARe website, available in English (prevent.cancer.ca) and French (prevenir.cancer.ca), where you’ll find a variety of infographics and data dashboards to help you explore the results of ComPARe in more detail.

This ComPARe study is the first of its kind, providing the most comprehensive, up-to-date estimates of the preventable burden of cancer in Canada. As such, the study findings are expected to have an important impact on cancer prevention decision-making in Canada and allow the creation of targeted prevention messaging that can help with risk behavior reduction.

For any questions, please email the study team at TheComPARestudy@gmail.com.



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