Disparity in cancer prevention and screening in aboriginal populations: recommendations for action

S. Ahmed, R.K. Shahid, J.A. Episkenew


Historically, cancer has occurred at a lower rate in aboriginal populations; however, it is now dramatically increasing. Unless preventive measures are taken, cancer rates among aboriginal peoples are expected to soon surpass those in non-aboriginal populations. Because a large proportion of malignant disorders are preventable, primary prevention through socioeconomic interventions, environmental changes, and lifestyle modification might provide the best option for reducing the increasing burden of cancers. Such efforts can be further amplified by making use of effective cancer screening programs for early detection of cancers at their most treatable stage. However, compared with non-aboriginal Canadians, many aboriginal Canadians lack equal access to cancer screening and prevention programs. In this paper, we discuss disparities in cancer prevention and screening in aboriginal populations in Canada. We begin with the relevant definitions and a theoretical perspective of disparity in health care in aboriginal populations. A framework of health determinants is proposed to explain the pathways associated with an increased risk of cancer that are potentially avoidable. Major challenges and knowledge gaps in relation to cancer care for aboriginal populations are addressed, and we make recommendations to eliminate disparities in cancer control and prevention.


Cancer prevention; cancer screening; aboriginal populations; disparity; inequity; Canadian health care

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.22.2599

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)