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Social and Community Context and Cancer Disparities

Social and Community Context refers to the settings, social relationships, and connections between people and institutions where people live, work, and play. The phrase includes issues including civic participation, discrimination, conditions in the workplace, and incarceration—all of which can affect health outcomes in numerous ways.

Social relationships, for instance, influence health-related norms (including values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors), shape access to relationship networks (social capital) and other health-promoting resources, and impact how we cope with stress.

Furthermore, structural inequalities (such as differences in how many hospitals are in an area or safe neighborhoods to play and exercise in as well as economic segregation) and social injustice (such as racism, homophobia, and gender inequality) can affect the social interactions and connections in a community in ways that may either support or undermine the health of the people who live there.

For example, access to robust social, emotional, and material support systems can help influence people’s participation in cancer screening and help cancer patients navigate complex diagnoses and manage challenging treatment regimens.

Our Research Focus

The ACS Cancer Disparity Research team analyzes how social and community relationships and structures contribute to cancer disparities by race/ethnicity, age, gender, and other sociodemographic characteristics. Some of our current research examines:

  • How residential stability, living arrangements, and social support affect participation in cancer screening and the occurrence of cancer
  • The effects of loneliness, self-reported pain, and fatigue have on quality of life among cancer survivors
  • The effects of neighborhood disorder and social cohesion have on physical and mental health status as well as other health outcomes among cancer survivors
  • How living alone affects cancer mortality and other cancer-related outcomes among cancer survivors

Recent Studies