Area-level income disparities in colorectal screening in Canada: evidence to inform future surveillance

A. Blair, L. Gauvin, S. Ouédraogo, G. D. Datta


Background Participation in colorectal screening remains low even in countries with universal health coverage. Area-level determinants of low screening participation in Canada remain poorly understood.

Methods We assessed the association between area-level income and two indicators of colorectal screening (having never been screened, having not been screened recently) by linking census-derived local area-level income data with self-reported screening data from urban-dwelling respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey (50–75 years of age, cycles 2005 and 2007, n = 18,362) who reported no known risk factors for colorectal cancer. Generalized estimating equation Poisson models estimated the prevalence ratios and differences for having never been screened and having not been screened recently, adjusting for individual-level income, education, marital status, having a regular physician, age, and sex.

Results About 53% of the study population had never been screened. Among individuals who had ever been screened, 35% had been screened recently. Adjusting for covariates, lower area-level income was associated with having never been screened [covariate-adjusted prevalence ratios: 1.24 for quartile 1; 95% confidence limits (cl): 1.16, 1.34; 1.25 for quartile 2; 95% cl: 1.15, 1.33; 1.15 for quartile 3; 95% cl: 1.08, 1.23]. Among individuals who had been screened in their lifetime, area-level income was not associated with having not been screened recently.

Conclusions Lower area-level income is associated with having never been screened for colorectal cancer even after adjusting for individual socioeconomic factors. Those findings highlight the potential importance of socioeconomic contexts for colorectal screening initiation and merit attention in both future research and surveillance efforts.


Cancer prevention; screening; inequalities; epidemiology; public health; neighborhoods


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