(May 2001) As in the United States, HPV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that the Canadian government routinely monitors. Available statistics come from smaller studies of different sub-groups in the population. For Canadian women, the estimated prevalence rate for HPV ranges from 20 percent to 33 percent for both the non-cancer causing and cancer-causing types of the virus, and between 11 percent and 25 percent for the cancer causing types alone, according to Health Canada, a federal government agency charged with maintaining and improving the health of Canadians. Some high-risk groups have a higher HPV prevalence rate. For instance, one recent study in Ontario found that women between the ages of 20 and 24 had the highest HPV prevalence rate for cancer-causing types, at 24 percent, and this decreased with age. Another study found that a group of HIV-infected women had a 49 percent cancer-causing HPV prevalence rate.
There is a special need in Canada to pay more attention to HPV and the cervical cancer status of Aboriginal women. For instance, among Indian women in the province of Saskatchewan, cervical cancer represents the most common type of cancer; levels are 10 times higher than those found among women in the province as a whole. In addition, one 1994 study found that among Canadian Inuit women, cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer. Another recently published study concluded that Aboriginal women in Manitoba, Canada had an age-standardized incidence of invasive cervical cancer that was 3.6 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal women for the years 1984-1997, reinforcing the need for a more inclusive screening campaign.
In order to address this problem, Canada has adopted a nationwide initiative to increase Pap screening among all populations throughout the country.
Health Canada, “What Everyone Should Know About Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Questions and Answers,” STD EPI Update (September 2000).
Alice Lytwyn and John Sellors, “Sexually Transmitted Human Papillomaviruses: Current Concepts and Control Issues,” Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 6, no. 2 (1997).
T. Kue Young et al., “Monitoring Disease Burden and Preventive Behavior with Data Linkage: Cervical Cancer Among Aboriginal People in Manitoba, Canada,” American Journal of Public Health 90, no. 9 (September 2000): 1466–68.
John W. Sellors et al., “Prevalence and Predictors of Human Papillomavirus Infection in Women in Ontario, Canada,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 163, no. 5 (Sept. 5, 2000).
Jennifer Jones is a domestic programs fellow at PRB.