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Research Underway Using OHS Data

Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are the primary causes of death in Canadian adults and treating these and other illnesses costs the Canadian health care system billions of dollars annually. The researchers using Ontario Health Study data are investigating factors that increase the risk of developing various diseases, as well as what can be done to reduce the chance of developing them. These risk factors may include where people live and work, what they eat, how much they exercise, whether they smoke and other factors that have not yet been identified.

CanPath Webinar: Using population cohorts to support COVID-19 research

Aug 27, 2020

Dr. Philip Awadalla, (National Scientific Director, CanPath; Executive Scientific Director, Ontario Health Study) discusses how data from large population health cohorts like CanPath can be harnessed to support research into COVID-19 such as the socioeconomic and mental health impact, as well as disease severity, infection rates, and mapping of where people are most likely to be tested or effected.


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What’s behind a cancer diagnosis in women under 50? Researcher looks to OHS data for clues

Feb 3, 2020

A University of Calgary epidemiologist is using data from Ontario Health Study (OHS) participants to explore how environmental or lifestyle factors could be associated with breast cancer in younger women.

Dr. Darren Brenner recently gained approval to study the de-identified data for female participants who were ages 35 to 50 and cancer-free at the time they joined the OHS. Questionnaire data from the OHS will be combined with Ontario Cancer Registry data to focus his work on those who have subsequently had a cancer diagnosis since joining the OHS.

Comparatively little is known about the risk factors for young-onset breast cancer, Brenner noted in his application to use OHS data. Inherited genetic mutations play a role, but generally only account for 5% to 10% of young-onset cases, suggesting lifestyle or environmental factors may contribute to the development of breast cancer in younger women. The role of obesity needs further study, he noted, as recent studies suggested a decreased risk for breast cancer in younger women with obesity.

Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer tend to have poorer survival rates because they are not routinely screened, and so tend to have an already-advanced stage of cancer once they are diagnosed.

Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian women. Though the number of cancer diagnoses in older women has gone down over the last 25 years, the number of women under age 50 who receive a breast cancer diagnosis has increased. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, breast cancer accounts for 23% of diagnosed cancers in Canadians aged 30 to 49[1]. On a positive note, female breast cancer death rates have decreased an estimated 48% since they peaked in 1986[2].

In addition to using questionnaire data and blood samples from OHS participants, Dr. Brenner is also pulling similar data about British Columbian and Albertan women, through the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, Canada’s largest population cohort study.

Dr. Brenner and his team will examine the impact of lifestyle, environmental, and reproductive factors, family and medical history, as well as breast cancer screening protocols, on the risk for breast cancer in women under 50.

Results from their investigation could improve researchers’ understanding of young-onset breast cancer causes and could lead to improved prevention strategies.

Read more about Dr. Brenner and his other research projects in this article: ‘Research Rockstar’

[1] Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 p. 14

[2] Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 p. 7


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Operating grants available to use existing data sets

Sep 3, 2019

A new funding opportunity from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is available to support research that uses existing cohort data, administrative datasets and data platforms that link to or allow access to datasets from multiple sources.

Among the data sets that the CHIR wants to see used are those of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP), which includes large harmonized data sets from the Ontario Health Study. Another data set is the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) which has previously accessed OHS and CPTP data.

The intent of the funding is to encourage use of existing cohorts, administrative and survey data to inform improved patient, population and system outcomes.

 The CIHR Data Analysis Using Existing Databases and Cohorts funding opportunity provides a one-year operating grant within three streams of research:

Register by September 5, 2019 and apply by October 10, 2019. Learn more on ResearchNet.

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