Cancer in First Nations people living in British Columbia, Canada: an analysis of incidence and survival from 1993 to 2010



For First Nations (FN) peoples living in British Columbia (BC), little is known regarding cancer in the population. The aim of this study was to explore cancer incidence and survival in the FN population of BC and compare it to the non-FN population.


All new cancers diagnosed from 1993 to 2010 were linked to the First Nations Client File (FNCF). Age-standardized incidence rates (ASIR) and rate ratios, and 1- and 5-year cause-specific survival estimates and hazard ratios were calculated. Follow-up end date for survival was December 31, 2011 and follow-up time was censored at a maximum of 15 years.


ASIR of colorectal cancer (male SRR = 1.42, 95% CI 1.25–1.61; female SRR = 1.21, 95% CI 1.06–1.38) and cervical cancer (SRR = 1.84, 95% CI 1.45–2.33) were higher overall in FN residents in BC, compared to non-FN residents. Incidence rates of almost all other cancers were generally similar or lower in FN populations overall and by sex, age, and period categories, compared to non-FN residents. Trends in ASIR over time were similar except for lung (increasing for FN, decreasing for non-FN) and colorectal cancers (increasing for FN, decreasing for non-FN). Conversely, survival rates were generally lower for FN, with differences evident for some cancer sites at 1 year following diagnosis.


FN people living in BC face unique cancer issues compared to non-FN people. Higher incidence and lower survival associated with certain cancer types require further research to look into the likely multifaceted basis for these findings.

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Eric Cai, Jeremy Hamm and Kimberly DeVries from the BC Cancer Agency, Dr. Evan Adams, and Miranda Kelly from the First Nations Health Authority and Dr. Shannon Waters from Health Canada.

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Correspondence to Nadine R. Caron.

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John J. Spinelli and Nadine R. Caron have contributed equally to this work.

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McGahan, C.E., Linn, K., Guno, P. et al. Cancer in First Nations people living in British Columbia, Canada: an analysis of incidence and survival from 1993 to 2010. Cancer Causes Control 28, 1105–1116 (2017).

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  • Cancer
  • Incidence
  • Survival
  • First Nations
  • Canada
  • British Columbia