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Cancer incidence and mortality of Surinamese migrants in the Netherlands: in-between Surinamese and Dutch levels?



It has been suggested that the cancer risk of migrants from low-income to high-income countries will converge toward the levels of their host country. However, comparisons with country of origin are mostly lacking. We compared cancer incidence and mortality rates of Surinamese migrants in the Netherlands to both native Dutch and Surinamese levels.


Data covering the period 1995–2008 were obtained from Surinamese and Dutch national cancer registries and national cause-of-death registries. Cancer incidence was studied for 21 types of cancer and cancer mortality for nine types. We calculated age-standardized incidence/mortality ratios (SIR/SMR) for the Surinamese migrants and for Suriname, using the native Dutch population as reference.


Significantly lower overall cancer incidence (SIR = 0.77, 95 % CI = 0.69–0.84) and mortality rates (SMR = 0.63, 95 % CI = 0.55–0.72) were found for Surinamese migrants compared to native Dutch. Generally, cancer risk was lower for most cancers (e.g., cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, lung), but higher for other cancers (e.g., cancer of the uterine cervix, liver). For most cancers, cancer risk of the Surinamese migrants was in-between Surinamese and native Dutch levels. Importantly, for many cancers, migrants’ incidence and mortality rates had not closely approached native Dutch rates. For skin cancer, incidence levels for Surinamese migrants were lower than both Surinamese and native Dutch levels.


The results suggest that cancer incidence and mortality rates of Surinamese migrants generally converge from Surinamese toward Dutch levels, though not for all cancer types. Overall, Surinamese migrants still had a much more favorable cancer profile than the native Dutch population.

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We would like to acknowledge drs. W. Punwasi of the Bureau for Public Health Care (Suriname), and the General Bureau of Statistics (Suriname) for preparing and providing tabulation data on mortality and populations numbers of Suriname.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Anton E. Kunst.

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Williams, G., Mans, D.R.A., Garssen, J. et al. Cancer incidence and mortality of Surinamese migrants in the Netherlands: in-between Surinamese and Dutch levels?. Cancer Causes Control 24, 1375–1383 (2013).

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  • Incidence
  • Mortality
  • Cancer types
  • Migrants
  • Suriname