Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer incidence in Europe: a comprehensive review of population-based epidemiological studies
Background. Since the end of the previous century, there has not been a comprehensive review of European studies on socioeconomic inequality in cancer incidence. In view of recent advances in data source linkage and analytical methods, we aimed to update the knowledge base on associations between location-specific cancer incidence and individual or area-level measures of socio-economic status (SES) among European adults.
Materials and methods. We systematically searched three databases (PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science) for articles on cancer incidence and SES. Qualitative synthesis was performed on the 91 included English language studies, published between 2000 and 2019 in Europe, which focused on adults, relied on cancer registry data and reported on relative risk (RR) estimates.
Results. Adults with low SES have increased risk of head and neck, oesophagogastric, liver and gallbladder, pancreatic, lung, kidney, bladder, penile and cervical cancers (highest RRs for lung, head and neck, stomach and cervix). Conversely, high SES is linked with increased risk of thyroid, breast, prostate and skin cancers. Central nervous system and haematological cancers are not associated with SES. The positive gap in testicular cancer has narrowed, while colorectal cancer shows a varying pattern in different countries. Negative associations are generally stronger for men compared to women.
Conclusion. In Europe, cancers in almost all common locations are associated with SES and the inequalities can be explained to a varying degree by known life-style related factors, most notably smoking. Independent effects of many individual and area SES measures which capture different aspects of SES can also be observed.