Cancer deaths higher among less educated

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Less educated people in the US are more than twice as likely to die from cancer as their better-educated counterparts, according to a new study.

The study of people between 25 and 64 found that death from all cancers in 2001 was roughly double in black men, white men and white women with 12 years or less of education, compared with those with more than 12 years in education.

The risk for less-educated black women was 1.43 times their better-educated peers.

Cancer deaths were “generally higher” in blacks compared with whites, the study found. But it also said that education could be a more important factor in determining death risk than race.

The study, to be published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute next week, adds to a wide body of research on healthcare disparities due to socioeconomic status and income levels in the US. Access to healthcare is increasingly one of the hottest US domestic political debates.

It comes on the heels of a new advertising campaign by the American Cancer Society that promotes the politically contentious policy of healthcare access to all citizens to thwart cancer deaths.

“A number of factors could influence the association between education level and cancer death rate, including access to medical care associated with lack of health insurance; the prevalence of exposure to important risk factors such as cigarette smoking and obesity; and the likelihood of cancer screening utilisation,” said the study authors led by Jessica Albano, an ACS scientist.

Black men with 12 years of school or less were more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer compared with black men with more education. Second, breast cancer death rates were higher in less-educated women. This is contrary to a long-standing trend, particularly in white women with more education, where breast cancer risk was often higher, perhaps owing to later child-bearing.

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