The lack of health data about Black Canadians can be life-threatening: study


Black Canadian women may be under-screened for cervical and breast cancer due to the lack of health data collected about Black Canadians more broadly, a new report suggests.

A new literature review from the University of Toronto noted Black Canadians make up the third largest minority group in the country, but researchers could find only 23 studies pertaining to breast cancer, cervical cancer and Black Canadian women within in the last 15 years.

This is especially alarming because there is some evidence to suggest Black women could be predisposed to worse outcomes from these diseases.

A 2016 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black American women are more likely than white women to get triple-negative breast cancer, a highly aggressive type of cancer known to return after treatment.

“Although this scoping review was focused on breast and cervical cancer in the Black Canadian population, the bigger issue is the fact that in Canada, so much is unknown when it comes to health disparities faced by minority groups, whether due to race [or] racism, ethnicity, or culture,” researchers said in the paper.

In reviewing the available data, researchers also found variation across different Black communities.

“Black Caribbean women appear to actually get screened at the same rate or even higher than white Canadian women, but Black women from sub-Saharan Africa appear less likely to be screened,” said lead author Dr. Onyenyechukwu Nnorom.

Without research into the health of minority groups, differences like these go unnoticed and policy can’t be updated to reflect the group’s unique needs — effectively leaving them vulnerable.

Nnorom says this contributes to the larger problem of systemic racism in Canadian health care, which can affect everything from the individual patient to the medical trials that receive funding and the ones that don’t.