Five Factoids about Cancer and Poverty

Cancer Facts and Figures 2011 cutout

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American Cancer Society data says it's not what classes you take, it's what socioeconomic class you belong to

New York, N.Y. (June 25, 2011) – A college degree can help you get a job, a promotion and a bigger paycheck. But new evidence suggests it can also give you a lower cancer risk. How can that be and where does that data come from?

The first thing you need to know is this isn't hype. There's actually solid science behind the headlines. But it's not so much if you have a bachelors or masters degree that determines your risk. Education is often used as a marker for socioeconomic status. The more schooling you have, statically speaking, the more likely you are to be in a more affluent socioeconomic status. So people who are poor or live in poverty aren't as likely to be college educated.

That's where the connection to college and cancer lies. As Dr. Len Lichtenfeld wrote in his blog this week, poverty really is a carcinogenic. This new data on poverty and cancer comes from the American Cancer Society's Facts and Figures 2011.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • If the death rates of the most educated non-Hispanic whites are applied to all individuals ages 25 to 64 – i.e., if everyone had the cancer burden of the most educated -- the number of cancer deaths in this age group could be reduced by 37%. 
  • Among African Americans aged 25-64, there were 12,710 cancer deaths in men and 11,850 cancer deaths in women in 2007. Eliminating economic disparities among African Americans could potential avoid 10,050 cancer deaths, twice as many as eliminating racial disparities.

To help break it down, here are five factoids from the American Cancer Society about how race and economics influence cancer disparities.

Additional Resources
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American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures 2011
Dr. Len's Blog


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit