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So there’s the good news, and then there’s …

Posted Sep 28 2008 1:49pm

The good news is that Americans with a college education and aged between 25 and 64 have seen a significant decline in death rates from the four leading types of cancer (breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers) since the early 1990s, according to an analysis just published in the  Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The bad news is therefore pretty obvious!

For people who didn’t finish high school, between 1993 and 2001, there was a statistically significant decrease in death rates during the same period only for Caucasian women with breast cancer. Death rates among people with less than 12 years of education increased for lung cancer in white women and for colon cancer in black men and were stable for the rest of the cancer types. The study is yet another illustration of how a person’s health can be closely tied to socioeconomic factors such as education and income level.

Death rates for each of the four main types of cancer decreased from 1993 to 2001 in men and women with at least 16 years of education — i.e., a college degree — with the single exception of lung cancer among college-educated, African American women, for whom death rates were found to be stable.  

The paper provides a an number of possible (and relatively obvious) explanations for these results: 

  • Less educated adults are more likely to smoke.
  • Less educated women may be less likely to get a mammogram that could provide early detection of breast cancer.
  • Less educated people may be less likely to get colorectal cancer screening tests.
  • Less educated people may be less likely to get the best types of cancer treatment.

Since income levels tend to track closely with education levels, the authors note that many lower income people are less likely to have health insurance than people who are more highly paid.

For the second time today, The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink would observe that these results are hardly surprising, but they are disappointing. As a society, the USA continues down a path of failing to provide quality care for those who are at greatest risk. While it may not be the “duty” of society to ensure the best possible care for all of its members, we would argue that there is a moral obligation to ensure access to the best possible care for those who do not have the skills or the resources to seek out and gain access to such care without significant help.

Filed under: Management, Treatment

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