Epidemiological studies are concerned with the investigation of risk factors and determinants of cancer. Risk factors could include lifestyle choices (such as diet, exercise or smoking behaviour), the environment (for example, radiation levels, quality of drinking water), or chemicals and substances in the work environment. Determinants of cancer are those factors that make a person more or less likely to develop cancer, but do not in themselves cause cancer. Epidemiological studies also help us to understand cancer prevention and the effect of screening.
Epidemiological research looks at risk factors and determinants in entire populations to understand similarities and differences in individuals. Epidemiological studies currently being conducted in Nova Scotia are considering the population of the province as a whole. As a result of epidemiological findings, researchers can recommend or develop tools to improve cancer prevention and screening, or direct clinical research into mechanisms of the development of cancer.
Currently, Ron Dewar, Dr. Susan Kirkland, Dr. Linda Dodds, Dr. Grace Johnston, Dr. Fred Burge and Dr. Ingrid Skertis are conducting epidemiological studies related to cancer. Their topics of interest include environmental issues, smoking behaviour, cervical cancer screening, and drug use. Some of their recently completed studies include:
- Effectiveness of Letters to Cape Breton Women who have not had a Recent Pap Smear (published Spring 2003)
- Community-Based Cultural Predictors of Pap Smear Screening in Nova Scotia (published March 2004)
- Assessing Data Quality of a Cancer Screening Registry (presented at the 4th World Conference for Cancer Organizations in Dublin, Ireland, November 2004)