There are certain factors linked to the development of specific cancers. Smoking is associated with a higher risk of lung cancer, for example, while the use of tanning beds increases the risk of skin cancer. Now, a new study suggests that socioeconomic status may influence cancer types.
The research team, led by Dr. Francis Boscoe of the New York Cancer State Registry, recently published their findings in the journal Cancer.
Past studies have associated socioeconomic status with the development of health problems. In 2011, Medical News Today reported on research from the University of California Davis, which suggested people with lower income have a 50% higher risk of heart disease.
But the team involved in this latest research says there is a shortage of studies looking at the association between socioeconomic status and cancer, partly because until now, public health data systems have rarely collected such information.
32 of 39 cancer types associated with poverty
To determine whether there is an association, the researchers gathered cancer incidence data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The team identified 2.9 million people who had tumors diagnosed between 2005 and 2009. Participants lived across 16 states - including Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and Iowa - and Los Angeles County, CA.
Researchers found that out of 32 cancer types, 14 were most common in areas of high poverty and 18 were most common in areas of low poverty.
All individuals were divided into four groups based on their poverty level - according to the 2005-2009 American Community Survey - at time of diagnosis.
Although the team's findings did not show a significant association between socioeconomic status and cancer incidence, they showed an association between socioeconomic status and cancer type. Of 39 cancer types assessed, 32 were associated with poverty - 14 were more common in areas of high poverty, while 18 were most common in areas with low poverty.
For example, the researchers found that certain cancers - such as Kaposi sarcoma and cancers of the liver, penis, cervix and larynx - were most common in the poorest areas. Other cancers - including thyroid, testis, melanoma and other non-epithelial skin cancers - were more likely to occur in the wealthiest areas.
On closer inspection, the team found that cancers associated with poorer areas have a lower incidence rate but a higher mortality rate, while cancers associated with wealthier areas have a higher incidence rate but a lower mortality rate.
"When it comes to cancer, the poor are more likely to die of the disease while the affluent are more likely to die with the disease," says Dr. Boscoe.
Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:
"We have presented what is to our knowledge the most comprehensive assessment of the relationship between socioeconomic status and cancer incidence for the US.
These findings demonstrate the importance and relevance of including a measure of socioeconomic status in national cancer surveillance."
Dr. Boscoe says he hopes these findings will prompt such surveillance in the future.
Aside from socioeconomic status influencing cancer incidence, past research has suggested it may influence cancer treatment. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study indicating that breast cancer resources are significantly lacking in low-income countries.