In Ontario, there are significant geographical disparities in colorectal cancer incidence. In particular, the northern region of Timiskaming has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in Ontario while the southern region of Peel displays the lowest. We aimed to identify non-nutritional modifiable environmental factors in Timiskaming that may be associated with its diverging colorectal cancer incidence rates when compared to Peel.
We performed a systematic review to identify established and proposed environmental factors associated with colorectal cancer incidence, created an assessment questionnaire tool regarding these environmental exposures, and applied this questionnaire among 114 participants from the communities of Timiskaming and Peel.
We found that tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, residential use of organochlorine pesticides, and potential exposure to toxic metals were dominant factors among Timiskaming respondents. We found significant differences regarding active smoking, chronic alcohol use, reported indoor and outdoor household pesticide use, and gold and silver mining in the Timiskaming region.
This study, the first to assess environmental factors in the Timiskaming community, identified higher reported exposures to tobacco, alcohol, pesticides, and mining in Timiskaming when compared with Peel. These significant findings highlight the need for specific public health assessments and interventions regarding community environmental exposures.