Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.
A recent study shows children born to high-status parents have a higher incidence rate of developing prostate and other cancers in later life.
A person’s upbringing and socioeconomic status can raise and lower the risk of different cancers, including prostate cancer.
This according to a new study that found that circumstances in childhood, including parental occupation at birth and neighborhood income, may be associated with different risks of certain cancers later in life. The study was carried out by researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City and collaborators at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ and Temple University Health System, Philadelphia.
“We approached this from two angles-we thought that if you were from a higher socioeconomic class, you would be better off in the sense of the age you would get cancer would come later just because you took better care of yourself, you had more resources, you had health insurance, saw a doctor regularly,” senior author Ken Smith, PhD, of Huntsman Cancer Institute told Urology Times. “The other way to think of it is that those with a higher status are also more likely to practice screening behavior, which might make the age of diagnosis earlier. Both turned out to be true.”
In the study, the authors analyzed cancer risk and socioeconomic status of baby boomers born in the Utah counties of Salt Lake and Weber between 1945 and 1959 who survived and lived in the state until at least the age of 18. The study identified socioeconomic categories in childhood and looked for associations with cancer incidence as identified in the Utah Cancer Registry to find any significant trends.
“What is new here is that we were able, for a large segment of the population, to go back to the early years and find the socioeconomic status when a young child was growing up-that combination of information is hard to come by,” Dr. Smith said. “We were able to use birth certificates, which contain socioeconomic indicators of the parents, and follow the child in question through time to link them to the Utah Cancer Registry, and that was for about 125,000 children.”
The data collected revealed that children born to high-status parents have a higher incidence rate of developing prostate cancer, melanoma, or breast cancer in later life. Additionally, girls born into lower status communities showed a greater risk of having invasive cervical cancer, while boys from similar neighborhoods were found to have a lower incidence rate of developing prostate cancer. Both sexes born in low-status areas had lower risk of melanoma.
Dr. Smith noted that the research supports the theory that a link exists between early socioeconomic status and adult cancer risk.
For studying prostate cancer, almost 900 new cases were identified in the sample.
“It shows that for prostate cancer risk, there still remains disparities in both screening and diagnosis and treatment along social class lines. In this analysis, we show these social disparities were already crystalizing early in life,” Dr. Smith said. “People who are on the lower end of the social ladder deserve closer attention in terms of providing them with more cancer screening and surveillance. This lack of screening is an important problem that needs to be addressed.”
Dr. Smith said that the importance of critical periods in a child’s development may be affected by exposures and living conditions that can lay the foundation for later cancer risk and contribute to social differences in cancer risk.
“We would never argue and do not argue that if you are born into adverse circumstances socioeconomically, it is your destiny that you will suffer the ill effects of being born to the ‘wrong’ parents,” he said. “Our interest is to identify what is effective in reducing your risk of cancer as an adult or what we can do as a health care system that will minimize or eliminate risks faced by persons born into lower-status circumstances.”