September 30, 2013 1:10 pm

How healthy is your city? 7 findings about Canada’s best and worst cancer-fighting cities

Which cities are saints and sinners when it comes to eating healthy, drinking less, exercising more and lighting up less?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TORONTO — Which cities are saints and sinners when it comes to eating healthy, drinking less, exercising more and lighting up less?

A new Canadian report is stacking cities side by side and comparing their efforts when it comes to fighting cancer risk.

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The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer released its findings Monday on which cities are fighting cancer risks the best when it comes to implementing policies or measuring uptake of cancer screening.

“Canadians can affect their own cancer risk by making healthier choices like eliminating tobacco use, healthy eating and being active,” Dr. Heather Bryant, vice-president of cancer control, said.

Read more: Snapshot of health care in Canada: What you need to know

The report says there’s value in taking a closer look at how city officials are tackling the threat of cancer, even if it’s small measures like banning smoking on city property, adding bike paths or banning junk food in schools.

Take a look at some of the report’s findings on how Canadian cities are faring:

Active Victorians nursing the bottle: the report suggests that in B.C., residents of Victoria are significantly more active than their Vancouver counterparts. But they drink more — the number of Victorians who said they drink beyond the recommended guidelines is more than 1.5 times higher than Vancouverites. Vancouver is a sober city: it has nearly twice the percentage of residents who don’t drink at all.

Read more: Smokers who quit before 40 save a decade of their lives: study

Second-hand smoke free in Saskatoon: Most provinces have laws limiting second-hand smoke but some municipalities take it to the next step. In Saskatoon, bylaws limit second-hand smoke in public spaces — this city now has the lowest rate of exposure in the country. In Regina, its nearly twice as high at 12 per cent. The same story exists in Hamilton and Oshawa, Ont. Hamilton’s laws against second-hand smoke placed it in the top 10 cities for reduced exposure, but Oshawa ranks in the bottom five.

Read more: Should smoking bans extend to public parks and beaches? Debate sparks controversy in Canada

Alcohol-free urbanites: Turns out, those living in the core of the big cities — Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver — are the biggest groups of people abstaining from alcohol, especially next to their suburban neighbours living in the extended metropolitan areas. Take Ottawa, for example: 18 per cent of adults in the city said they didn’t drink in the past year, meanwhile only 10 per cent of locals within the Greater Ottawa Area that stretches into Quebec said the same for themselves.

Read more: A cancer breakthrough: Canada-U.S. team develop ‘sharp-shooter’ drug targeting several cancers

Who’s screening for cancer? Managing cancer screening is a provincial job, but there are distinct disparities from city to city in uptake of testing. Edmonton women are among the least likely to get a Pap test or undergo a mammogram, but Calgary’s screening rates for women are among the highest. Saskatoon has “substantially” higher rates than in Regina for Pap tests, but Saskatoon’s is one of the lowest. Ottawa has one of the best pap-test screening rates across the country, but Toronto has one of the worst.

Read more: Breast cancer and genetics: Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy

Butting out in Quebec City: Next to Sherbrooke and Montreal, people in Quebec City seem to be quitting smoking a lot more. Quebec City is also among the top 10 cities controlling second-hand smoke, meanwhile Montreal is in the bottom third with that initiative. Toronto has one of the lowest numbers of people smoking, and those who do smoke don’t want to quit.

Read more: Can’t find a family doctor? Well-off more likely to secure appointments, Canadian research suggests

Smoking less and eating more; eating healthier and smoking more: St. John’s is the country’s quitting capital — the highest proportion of smokers trying to quit is in the capital of Newfoundland. But St. John’s is also home to people who have the highest rates of excess weight and obesity in Canada’s largest cities. In Quebec, the story is reversed: urban residents are one of the skinniest in the city, they graze on more fruits and vegetables than any of their urban neighbours in other cities. But they also drink more, smoke more and exercise less than other urbanites.

Read more: 6 Canadian game-changing ideas for global health care

They can smell the smoke: There are the least amount of smokers in Winnipeg and Vancouver but these same cities had the highest rates of people reporting public exposure to second-hand smoke. The report suggests this may be because in places where smoking isn’t as common, people may be more likely to notice and report it.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2013

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