FREDERICTON - When it comes to cancer, a New Brunswick study on cancer patterns in 14 urban and rural communities has found that where you live matters and that it has little to do with a community’s social or economic status. The study published this month in New Solutions, a journal of occupational and environmental health policy, identified communities with significantly high and others with significantly low overall rates of cancers and joins only a handful of studies that have examined and compared cancer and other disease incidences at the community level.
Inka Milewski, science advisor for the Conservation Council of New
Brunswick and the study’s author, found that cancer incidence is not
evenly distributed among New Brunswick communities with some communities
having a higher cancer incidence than others.
“The New Brunswick Department of Health does not track cancer incidence
by community, but my research clearly shows they must so they can
identify at-risk communities and effectively allocate scarce cancer
prevention dollars to help people avoid cancer,” said Milewski
Milewski’s study found no link at the community level between the
socio-economic factors often blamed for elevated cancer rates such as
unemployment, lack of education and poverty. The study could not isolate
which other risk factors were responsible for higher cancer rates in
some communities versus other communities because data on smoking,
exposure to environmental pollutants and contaminants, and rates of
diagnostic screening were not available at the community level.
“What does standout in my research is that communities with higher
levels of industrial activity had higher rates of cancers, along with
the fact that cancer rates in men in those communities were
significantly higher than in communities with no industrial activity.
This to me suggest cancer incidence has a strong link to occupational
“If we are to improve the health of New Brunswickers, cancer and other
health information must be collected and reported at the community
level. This would ensure residents become more aware of disease trends
in their community, disease prevention policies and programs could more
effectively target the most vulnerable populations, and public
engagement on public health and environmental policy issues could
increase”, said Milewski.