Fast Five Quiz: Social Disparities in Healthcare

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD


November 24, 2020

According to data from the American Association for Cancer Research Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2020, women of low socioeconomic status with early stage ovarian cancer are 50% less likely to receive recommended care than are women of high socioeconomic status.

Socioeconomic factors (eg, lack of education, poverty, and income inequality) are among the most important social determinants of health and healthcare. Numerous studies have shown that low socioeconomic status is positively associated with risk for and incidence of prostate cancer, as well as increased risk for poorer survival.

Numerous studies have shown an increased incidence of breast cancer among women of higher socioeconomic status. This is probably due to differences in risk factors. For example, women of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to drink alcohol, have children later in life, have fewer children, use birth control, and use postmenopausal hormone therapy, all of which are considered risk factors for breast cancer. Other social disparities may affect breast cancer treatment and outcomes. For example, a recent study showed that Black women were more likely than White women to experience delayed treatment initiation and longer treatment courses. Lack of access to care among women with lower socioeconomic status may also reduce or delay breast cancer diagnoses in this group.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis showed that low socioeconomic status was associated with modestly lower utilization of predictive biomarker tests and significantly lower utilization of biological and precision therapy, raising concerns about inequalities in treatment with biological and precision therapies.

Learn more about poverty and cancer disparities.