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Rural cancer rates 'concerning' but not surprising: Report


Rural living is supposed to be easier and cheaper, with less stress and pollution. But a new report suggests rural residents in Canada are more likely to have cancer than their city cousins.

“This report spells out that the prevalence was higher amongst people living in rural areas versus urban areas,” explained Vice President of Huron County’s Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health, Dr. Feng Chang.

An older population, and higher rates of drinking, smoking and obesity have been pegged as the likely “lifestyle-based” causes of the higher prevalence of cancer diagnoses in rural Canada, suggests the report from the Canadian Cancer Society.

“According to the Grey-Bruce Health Unit, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is 27 per cent higher in Grey-Bruce. There’s also a higher percentage of people in rural communities, living with other conditions like chronic lung disease, obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, and diabetes,” said Chang, who is also a researcher at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy.

A chart depicts the cancer prevalence in rural versus urban areas. (Source: Canadian Cancer Society)

The report suggests more Canadians are living with cancer than 10 years ago, including 1.5 million people today, versus one million a decade ago.

The data speaks to more people being diagnosed with cancer, but more people surviving it as well.

“Better surgery, better radiation, newer drugs. Lung cancer, for example, we’re really just opening the door to a new chapter in lung cancer,” said Dr. Christian Finley, a thoracic surgeon.

Chang suggested, along with real discussions about excessive smoking, drinking and eating in rural Canada that improving the health care system outside the city would also do wonders to limiting cancer prevalence, and would increase survivability rates.

“So before and after diagnosis, we’re ready to take care of people locally, where they live, and try to cut down on some of the travel requirements for follow up, which is really an important piece in these conditions,” said Chang.

For more on Canada’s cancer statistics and trends, you can visit the Canadian Cancer Society website Top Stories

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