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Mortality Due to Cancer 2020: Benchmarking Cancer Mortality in Canada

According to a new study examining the performance of Canada and its provinces on a number of health indicators, Canada earns a “B” mark when it comes to overall mortality due to cancer.

Mortality Due to Cancer 2020: Benchmarking Cancer Mortality in Canada, conducted by Conference Board of Canada and commissioned by Amgen Canada, compares the age-standardized mortality rates (ASMR) of Canada and the provinces against 16 peer countries.

While the report examined the combined mortality of over 100 types of cancer, the report focused on mortality rates for three common types: lung, colorectal, and prostate. Based on the report’s analysis, these three cancer types combined account for over 40 per cent of mortality due to cancer.

Overall, the study found the following:

  • Canada ranks average for the overall cancer mortality rate, and for the mortality rate due to prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
  • Canada’s mortality rate due to lung cancer is high compared to most peer countries.
  • British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta consistently perform better than other provinces.
  • The Atlantic provinces have higher cancer mortality rates than the rest of the country.
  • Canada needs a diverse approach to improving oncology outcomes that includes prevention, early detection, and better access to treatments.
  • While Canada scores a “B,” the performance of the provinces compared to the other countries varies widely. British Columbia is the only province that scores an “A” grade compared to other countries, followed by Alberta and Ontario, with each receiving a “B” grade. In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have the highest mortality rates.

    Canada’s overall grade means that while Canada performs better than half of comparator countries, there is room for improvement. In particular, Canada’s high mortality due to lung cancer is of concern.

    Canadian patients wait longer to access cancer drugs compared to the U.S. and coverage under public and private insurance plans can take longer. Likewise, the lengthy approval process for new oncology drugs, and the lack of critical population mass required to offer innovative or costly treatments in some provinces are among the reasons access to innovative oncology treatments lags in Canada.

    According to the study, a multi-pronged approach is essential to improve oncology outcomes. This includes prevention, early detection and screening, and better access to innovative diagnostics and treatments.

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