Inequalities in cancer mortality for low income people revealed in Australian study

Public Health

By Mardi Chapman

16 Jan 2020

Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality and cancer burden are significant across Australia and most obvious in cancers including cervical, prostate, melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast.

A study of cancer trends in Australia between 1982 and 2014 has shown that the overall cancer related mortality and cancer burden are significantly higher in the least advantaged groups compared with the most advantaged.

Cancer incidence, hospitalisation, cancer-related mortality and the burden of cancer has also  increased significantly over more than 30 years, the study published in BMJ Open said.

The cancer incidence data, from 2.78 million registered cancer cases, revealed that people in the most disadvantaged quintile were 1.083 times more likely to have cancer than the most advantaged – equating to an additional 9,873 cancer cases per year.

“It was also found that the least advantaged quintile on average experienced 34% more cancer-related mortality than their most advantaged counterparts,” the study said.

The least advantaged group also experienced a higher burden of cancer in terms of years life lost (YLL), years lost due to disability (YLD) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

When broken down into cancer types, the study found the ratio of least-most advantaged economic resources ratio (LMR) for mortality and incidence was especially high for cervix (M/I=1.802), prostate (M/I=1.514), melanoma (M/I=1.325), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (M/I=1.325) and breast (M/I=1.318).

“The highest contributors to the socioeconomic inequality-mortality gap were colorectal (LMR=1.327 times), pancreas (LMR=1.336 times), lung (LMR=1.965 times), cervix (LMR=1.363 times), kidney (LMR=1.344 times), bladder (LMR=1.433 times) and unknown primary cancer (LMR=1.660 times).”

The researchers said their findings were largely consistent with other studies. 

“Even though survival rates after cancer diagnosis have improved in recent years, disparities in cancer outcomes between the least-deprived and the most-deprived groups continue to persist. The magnitude of the cancer burden is negatively associated with socioeconomic status.”

“Growing socioeconomic inequalities of cancer outcomes need the attention of governments, health systems and decision-makers. These initiatives should aim for universal cancer care in all states.” 

“A sustained reduction of socioeconomic inequalities, which concerns poverty, gender, education and health, should promote universal equality in health and well-being and further enhance both socioeconomic and human development.”

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