Frequently, but now always, cancer strikes people in the lower socioeconomic groups. The development of cancer can be related to poverty or lifestyle issues including poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, and access to care. A recent article took a difference tack and discussed cancers that are more prevalent among the wealthy in Australia (see: Some cancers more prevalent in the wealthy), Below is an excerpt from it:
A new report has shown that Australians living in wealthy areas are more likely to get breast, prostate and skin cancers than those living in poorer zones. The report from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare...also shows that those living in disadvantaged parts of the country are more likely to have bowel, cervical and lung cancers. Not so much with bowel cancer, but lung cancer incidence varied to a large extent....According to director of advocacy at the Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, higher cancer rates in poor areas were not surprising, given higher rates of smoking among disadvantaged groups and lower rates of screening for cancers. He also said that it was known from earlier data that breast cancer was a “wealthy woman’s disease” because it affected those who lived longer and were therefore more privileged. Those who either delayed pregnancy or did not have children were also at slightly greater risk and tended to fall into the wealthier groups in society. For prostrate cancer he said, the rates reflected the fact that wealthier people had longer life spans. Skin cancer rate on the other hand showed intense exposure to UV rays that people experience if they generally work indoors, but enjoy leisurely activities in short bursts. Such exposure is known to increase one’s risk of melanoma. The report further said that although cancer diagnoses have risen since the 1980s, mostly because of the ageing population and more screening, the death rate dropped with earlier detection and better treatments. Overall death rate fell from 209 to 176 deaths per 100,000 people between 1982 and 2007. This improved survival rates applied to all types of cancer, except lung cancer in women, for which the death rate rose by 56 per cent from 1982 to 2007. This, according to Mr. Grogan was due to the fact that smoking rates peaked later for women in the last half of the 20th century, compared to men.
Lots of very interesting epidemiologic facts in this short piece. Taking lung cancer as an example, less educated people smoke more and undergo fewer health screenings so that their lung cancer rate is higher than among the more affluent. Breast cancer is regarded as a "wealthy woman's disease" because of their longer life span. Poorer women who either delayed pregnancy or did not have children were also at slightly greater risk for breast cancer and tended to fall into the wealthier groups for this disease. Wealthier people often work indoors but are exposed to the sun in short intense bursts during holidays or recreational activities. The behavior predisposes them to melanoma. One more interesting point. The number of cancer diagnoses in Australia is rising because of longer life spans and earlier cancer detection but the death rate is dropping because of earlier and more effective care.