The social distribution of cancer in Belgium

Research project: The social distribution of cancer in Belgium.


Patrick Deboosere

Hadewijch Vandenheede

Katrien Vanthomme

Paulien Hagedoorn

The social distribution of cancer in Belgium. Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality around the turn of the century.

2013-2016 | Funding: FWO funded project


There is consistent evidence of a negative association between socioeconomic (SE) position and nearly all indicators of morbidity and mortality. Yet, for cancer, the picture is less clear-cut: depending on the site of cancer being studied either a positive, a negative or no association at all is observed. In recent decades cancer has become a chronic and highly lethal disease and thus a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. The subsequent establishment of cancer registries in almost all European countries has prompted cross-country research and time trend analyses on cancer incidence and mortality. Belgium has among the highest all-cancer incidence in Europe and particularly high rates are observed for breast and lung cancer among other sites. As a consequence, our country constitutes a relevant setting to investigate the SE patterning of cancer mortality. Research on SE differences in cancer mortality that includes different cancer sites and studies trends over time is scant, particularly in Belgium. Such studies enable a deeper understanding of the entire spectrum of SE inequalities and may shed light on the causes of cancer inequalities and on the pathways connecting SE position and cancer. The aim of this project is to unravel SE inequalities in site-specific cancer mortality in Belgium and to gain insight in trends in those patterns between the beginning of the 1990s and the end of the 2000s. By mapping inequalities in cancer mortality, this project will allow the identification of cancer sites with the largest inequalities or the largest increase of inequalities. The Belgian data are quite unique and include all cancer deaths for the period under consideration. Only the Nordic countries have comparable data containing information on site-specific.