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Ethnicity, Immigration and Cancer Screening: Evidence for Canadian Women


  • James Ted McDonald
  • Steven Kennedy


Introduction: Canada's annual immigrant intake is increasingly composed of visible minorities, with 59% of immigrants arriving in 1996-01 coming from Asia. However, only a small number of studies have used population health surveys to examine Canadian women's use of cancer screening. We use recent population health surveys to analyze immigrant and native-born women's use of Pap smears, breast exams, breast self-exams, and mammograms. Methods: We study women aged 21-65 drawn from the National Population Health Survey and Canadian Community Health Surveys that together yield a sample size of 105,000 observations. Results: We find that for most forms of cancer screening, recent immigrants have markedly lower utilization rates, but these rates slowly increase with years in Canada. However, there is wide variation in rates of cancer screening by ethnicity. Screening rates for white immigrants approach Canadian-born women's utilization rates after 15-20 years in Canada, but screening rates for immigrants from Asia remain significantly below native-born Canadian levels. Discussion: Health authorities need to tailor their message about the importance of these forms of cancer screening to reflect the perceptions and beliefs of particular minority groups if the objective of universal use of preventative cancer screening is to be achieved.

Suggested Citation

  • James Ted McDonald & Steven Kennedy, 2005. "Ethnicity, Immigration and Cancer Screening: Evidence for Canadian Women," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 145, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:145

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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1991:81:7:885-891_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2005. "Is migration to Canada associated with unhealthy weight gain? Overweight and obesity among Canada's immigrants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(12), pages 2469-2481, December.
    3. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2004. "Insights into the 'healthy immigrant effect': health status and health service use of immigrants to Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(8), pages 1613-1627, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Newbold, K. Bruce & Neligan, David, 2012. "Disaggregating Canadian immigrant smoking behaviour by country of birth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 997-1005.
    2. James Ted McDonald, 2005. "The Health Behaviors of Immigrants and Native-born People in Canada," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 144, McMaster University.

    More about this item


    immigrants; ethnic groups; cancer; screening; acculturation;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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