Poverty linked with certain types of cancer, study says

Jun 6, 2014, 3:53 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm

Certain types of cancer are linked to areas with high poverty, according to a new study, and many of those types of cancer are more lethal than those found in wealthier areas.

Published Tuesday in the journal Cancer, researchers studied nearly 3 million tumors diagnosed between 2005 and 2009 from 16 states and found that of 39 cancers, 32 showed “a significant association with poverty,” the report says.

While there is no link between poverty and new cancers, areas where poverty is most prevalent are strongly associated with laryngeal, cervical, penile and liver cancer. In wealthier areas, skin and thyroid cancers are more common.

“The cancers more associated with poverty have lower incidence and higher mortality, and those associated with wealth have higher incidence and lower mortality. 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,” said the study's researcher, Francis Boscoe, in a statement.

One reason less lethal types of cancer are more common in the wealthy is because those types of cancer are “more likely to be picked up in individuals who have regular medical check-ups,” Al Jazeera reported.

“Wealthier communities are more engaged with the health care system and have more frequent screenings,” Boscoe told Al Jazeera.

Plus, “cancers associated with behavioral risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and poor diet were associated with higher levels of poverty. These include HPV- and tobacco-associated cancers such as cervix, oral, lung, esophagus and liver,” Al Jazeera reported.

While research has been done on cancer across racial and ethnic disparities, (one study shows that black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women), little research has been focused linking socioeconomic status and cancer, and “examining the role of race and ethnicity alone is limiting,” Boscoe told Al Jazeera.

Boscoe and her research team say “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,” according to Medical News Today. But Boscoe is hopeful cancer registries in North America will start to track socioeconomic status.

Twitter: @amymcdonald89

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