Evolution of socioeconomic inequalities in site-specific cancer mortality among Belgian women between 1991 and 2008 using a fundamental cause approach

In a newly published article in Cancer Causes Control, Katrien VanthommeHadewijch Vandenheede, Paulien Hagedoorn and Sylvie Gadeyne assess socioeconomic inequalities in site-specific cancer mortality in Belgian women. The results reveal persisting socioeconomic inequalities in total and site-specific cancer mortality.


Purpose According to the ‘fundamental cause theory’’, emerging knowledge on health-enhancing behaviours and technologies results in persisting and even widening health disparities, favouring the higher socioeconomic groups. This study aims to assess (trends in) socioeconomic inequalities in site-specic cancer mortality in Belgian women.

Methods Data were derived from record linkage betweethe Belgian census and register data on mortality for 1991–1997 and 2001–2008 for all Belgian female inhabitants aged 50–79 years. Both absolute and relative inequalities by education and housing conditions were calculated.

Results The results revealed persisting socioeconomic inequalities in total and site-specic cancer mortality. As expected, these inequalities were larger for the more preventable cancer sites. Generally, socioeconomic inequalities remained quite stable between the 1990s and the 2000s, although for some preventable cancer sites (e.g., uterus and oesophagus) a signicant increase in inequality was observed.

Conclusions These persisting socioeconomic inequalities are likely due to differences in exposure to risk factors and unhealthy behaviours, and access and utilization of healthcare across the social strata. Since equality in health should be a priority for a fair public health policy, efforts to reduce inequalities in risk behaviours and access and use of health care should remain high on the agenda.


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