Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study
The Canadian Forces Health Services Group is committed to the care and support of our men and women in uniform, our veterans and the wider CF family.
The Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study (CF CAMS) will provide new information about causes of death and the incidence of cancer for persons with a history of service in the CF, which will inform research, policy and program development.
The study will also allow the CF leadership to better understand the health of its personnel during and after service.
CF CAMS is led and funded by the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and conducted in collaboration with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and Statistics Canada.
The initial mortality report is now available on the Statistics Canada website. Part 2 of the study showing cancer results is expected in 2012.
Alert: Canadian Forces Information
This study uses CF administrative data. Therefore, there is no requirement for current or retired personnel to register or volunteer.
Subject: Initial Results of the Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study
Date: June 1, 2011
- What is the Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study?
- What were the key findings of the initial mortality report for the study?
- What factors were associated with an increased risk of suicide for former CF personnel?
- How is suicide being addressed in the CF?
- Why is the death rate from aircraft-related causes so high?
- Was deployment examined as a risk for mortality?
- Who was excluded from the study?
- Is this study representative of the Canadian veteran population?
- Why are the results of this study significant?
- Are there any privacy risks associated with this study?
- Where can I get more information?
The Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study (CF CAMS) is collaborative project funded and led by the Canadian Forces (CF), involving Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and Statistics Canada. CF CAMS will provide essential information about causes of death and cancer incidence among serving and former CF personnel. It will allow the CF and VAC to examine for the first time the rates of mortality and cancer experienced by CF personnel, both serving and released, who enrolled in the CF between 1972 and 2006 for the mortality analysis, and up until 2007 for the cancer analysis.
The key findings of the study include the following:
- Both males and females with a history of military service had an approximately 35 per cent lower risk of death when compared to the general Canadian population.
- The risk of dying from injury, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases was lower for males and females in the study group.
- The risk of dying in an aircraft accident was higher for the male study group compared to men in the general population, which is most likely attributed to the higher percentage of flying-related occupations in the study group compared with the Canadian population, and the increased risks associated with specialized aviation.
- The overall risk of suicide for males and females with a history of military service was not different than the Canadian population. However, the study showed that males who were former CF members were 1.5 times more likely to die from suicide than men in the Canadian population.
Further analysis of the suicide data for former CF personnel identified the following risk factors: male gender, service before 1986, shorter period of service (less than 10 years), former Non-Commissioned Member rank and release for involuntary or medical reasons.
The suicide rate for serving CF personnel has remained below that of the general Canadian population despite our high operational tempo over the past decade. Nevertheless, suicide prevention remains a priority for the Government of Canada. In the CF, great efforts are made to identify personnel with mental health problems and to provide them with assistance. The CF Health Services have a strong mental health program that provides dedicated and responsive care for ill and injured CF members and emphasizes the elimination of the barriers to mental health care. In 2009, a CF Expert Panel on Suicide Prevention concluded that the CF have a strong and multifaceted suicide prevention program. Additionally, the CF’s Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU), provides comprehensive, inter-disciplinary and integrated DND/VAC support to serving CF personnel and their families when injuries or illnesses occur, as they reintegrate into military life or transition into civilian life.
This finding can most likely be attributed to the higher percentage of flying-related occupations in the study group compared with the Canadian population, and the increased risks associated with specialized aviation. The CF has an excellent flight safety program. The CF Flight Safety Program aims to eliminate accidental loss of aircraft resources. It is based on the continuous monitoring of hazards, the investigation of all aircraft safety occurrences and a thorough analysis of the results of these investigations, so that recurrences can be prevented.
Deployment was not examined as a risk factor for mortality in this initial report as information on deployments in administrative datasets was found to be incomplete and will require development before being used in this research project.
Persons excluded from the study include individuals who enlisted before 1972, or after 2006. Also excluded were:
- those with a missing or invalid date of birth (date of birth was a key variable for analysis);
- those with Reserve Force service only administrative data on Reservists was incomplete and insufficient to be able to conduct a representative analysis); and,
- deaths that occurred out of country (Statistics Canada does not include these deaths as part of its data on the general Canadian population).
Since the study included only personnel who enrolled in the CF between 1972 and 2006, it is not representative of all veterans in Canada.
Previously, the CF was only able to track causes of death among serving personnel. For the first time, this study provides information about the health and causes of death for individuals after they leave the CF.
No. Information collected on mortality and cancer is stored and analysed according to the strict privacy rules and regulations at Statistics Canada. All personal information created, held or collected by Statistics Canada, as is the case with this study, is protected by the Privacy Act and by the Statistics Act. Only aggregate data which conformed to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act was released to DND and VAC. As well, the study was conducted following approval from an accredited external Research Ethics Board.
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