Background: Liver cancer is not common in Canada in general; however, clustering of the disease causes a concern. We conducted a spatial analysis to determine the geographic variation of liver cancer and its association with the proportion of immigration in Ontario. Liver cancer incidence data between 1998 and 2002 were obtained from the Ontario Cancer Registry. The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) in 2001 provided information on potential risk factors.
Results: Age standardized incidence ratios (SIR) for liver cancer and prevalence of potential risk factors were calculated for each of 35 health regions. The SIRs for liver cancer varied across the 35 health regions (p < 0.01). Toronto and York health regions had a significantly higher SIR than other regions, indicated by the Scan method (p < 0.001). Poisson models with and without random effects were fitted to determine independent ecological contributors. After adjustment for sex, age and spatial location, the proportion of immigrants remained a significant determinant. Smoking, alcohol drinking, physical activity, education, income, obesity and diabetes did not substantially explain the geographic variation of liver cancer in Ontario.
Conclusion: Immigration is an important reason for the clustering of liver cancer in Ontario. More attention should be paid to areas with a high proportion of immigrants.