People who spend time in jails and prisons in Canada
are more likely to use alcohol and tobacco, as well as have infections
such as HPV (human papillomavirus) and HIV, which can increase the risk
of developing some types of cancer.
A study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE
has revealed that people who spend time in jails and prisons are more likely to develop
certain types of cancer than the general population in Ontario.
‘Men serving time in jails and prisons are more prone to cancers of the lung, prostate, colorectal and head and neck, while women are prone to cancers of breast, lung and cervix.’
They were also more than 50% more likely to die from cancer
than the general population in Ontario, the study found. Men were more
than three times as likely as men in the general population to die from
head and neck and liver cancer and women were three times as likely as
women in the general population to die from cervical cancer.
Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian, a researcher at St. Michael's Hospital and
McMaster University and lead author of the study, said the findings
could be the result of high rates of risk factors for cancer in this
The researchers followed almost 50,000 people who were admitted to
provincial jails in Ontario in 2000 to study how many people developed
cancer and how many people died from cancer over a 12-year period.
Between 2000 and 2012, 2.6% of men and 2.8% of women
who spent time in jail or prison were diagnosed with new cancers. The
most common types of cancer for men were lung, prostate, colorectal and
head and neck, while the most common types of cancer for women were
breast, lung and cervical.
Over the followup period, 1.1% of men and 0.9% of
women who spent time in jail or prison died from cancer. Adjusted for
age, the mortality rate was 1.6 times higher for men and 1.4 times
higher for women in this population compared to the general population
in Ontario. The mortality rate was higher in men for any cancer, lung
cancer, liver cancer, and head and neck cancer, and in women for lung,
liver and head and neck cancers compared to the general population.
Dr. Kouyoumdjian said the study showed that cancer prevention
efforts should include people who have spent time in jails or prisons.
"Incarceration represents a chance to help people improve their
health through the provision of services and linkage with programs in
the community," she said.
"Specific strategies that could prevent cancer in this population
include smoking cessation, vaccination for HPV and HBV, pap screening
and treatment for hepatitis C, and these strategies could have a large
impact given that many people who experience incarceration are quite