Social inequality plays a significant, but often overlooked role in cancer. Factors such as socioeconomic status, discrimination, and past trends and historical context are interconnected and help explain certain racial differences in cancer.
For example, when it comes to breast cancer, “there are different patterns you may see by economic position in relation to risk of breast cancer and likelihood of surviving it,” says Nancy Krieger, Ph.D., a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health focused on studying social inequalities in health. “On average in the U.S., at this point, while women who are more affluent above age 50 are more likely to get breast cancer than women who are not, they are least likely to die from it.” Krieger cites this as an example of how economic status plays into inequalities in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Nancy Krieger, Ph.D., Harvard University School of Public Health
Importantly, understanding social inequalities in cancer can lead to strategies for helping different groups know how to better protect against cancer. This is why Krieger, with the help of a newly-awarded, prestigious American Cancer Society Research Professor grant, is launching several new studies that she hopes will give researchers, doctors, and patients a better understanding of how social inequalities impact cancer. Her goal is to provide information that will lead to increased access to cancer prevention and treatment for people whose socioeconomic status is putting them at a disadvantage today.
Krieger is starting 3 specific empirical studies, which will look into:
Krieger hopes this work will help lead to greater understanding and awareness of the causes of cancer inequities, which will ultimately “advance the action and resources needed to rectify and prevent them.”
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