Regional inequalities in lung cancer mortality in Belgium

In a new article in PlosOne, ID researchers Paulien Hagedoorn, Hadewijch Vandenheede, Didier Willaert, Katrien Vanthomme and Sylvie Gadeyne shed light on the regional inequalities in lung cancer mortality in Belgium at the beginning of the 21st century. More specifically, the contribution of individual and area-level socioeconomic status and industrial exposure is investigated.


Being a highly industrialized country with one of the highest male lung cancer mortality rates in Europe, Belgium is an interesting study area for lung cancer research. This study investigates geographical patterns in lung cancer mortality in Belgium. More specifically it probes into the contribution of individual as well as area-level characteristics to (sub-district patterns in) lung cancer mortality. Data from the 2001 census linked to register data from 2001–2011 are used, selecting all Belgian inhabitants aged 65+ at time of the census. Individual characteristics include education, housing status and home ownership. Urbanicity, unemployment rate, the percentage employed in mining and the percentage employed in other high-risk industries are included as sub-district characteristics. Regional variation in lung cancer mortality at sub-district level is estimated using directly age-standardized mortality rates. The association between lung cancer mortality and individual and area charac- teristics, and their impact on the variation of sub-district level is estimated using multilevel Poisson models. Significant sub-district variations in lung cancer mortality are observed. Individual characteristics explain a small share of this variation, while a large share is explained by sub-district characteristics. Individuals with a low socioeconomic status experience a higher lung cancer mortality risk. Among women, an association with lung cancer mortality is found for the sub-district characteristics urbanicity and unemployment rate, while for men lung cancer mortality was associated with the percentage employed in mining. Not just individual characteristics, but also area characteristics are thus important determinants of (regional differences in) lung cancer mortality.