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Immigrants to Canada have reduced risk of cancer-related death, new study finds

June 12, 2017


Recent immigrants who develop cancer have better health outcomes compared to Canadian-born individuals and non-recent immigrants, a new study published today in Journal of Oncology Practice has found.

The study looked at cancer-related death of recent immigrants to Canada diagnosed with cancer compared to non-immigrants and non-recent immigrants. Study subjects were followed from diagnosis to death (cancer specific or other causes).

The researchers found that fewer recent immigrants and non-recent immigrants died from cancer during the study period compared to the Canadian-born population. The study used data held and analyzed at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

“The benefit in survival appears to decay in the years after landing in Canada, suggesting that the healthy immigrant effect is potentially lost over time,” said first author Dr. Matthew Cheung, a hematologist at Sunnybrook. “Further research into the quality of care and the interplay of ethnicity, culture and immigration status will help explain the protective impact of immigration on cancer outcomes.”

The healthy immigrant effect — the idea that immigrants have better overall health than the general population — has been studied with respect to cardiovascular health in Ontario, but this is the first study that looked at cancer outcomes in the immigrant population in Canada.

“We initially thought we may find, like several American studies have found, that immigrants actually have poorer cancer-related outcomes, given that they are in a new place, with an unfamiliar health system, potentially limited language skills and cultural barriers for accessing care,” said Dr. Simron Singh, the senior author on the study. “We didn’t find that at all. Our findings suggest that immigrants are able to access essential cancer care in the Canadian context.”

Read more in this Q and A with the researchers.

Media Contact:

Alexis Dobranowski
Communications Advisor
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
416-480-6100 ext. 4349