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A $100 bill folded into cancer ribbon against pink background

According to a new study, certain types of cancers are very much connected to your wealth (or lack of).

“Socioeconomic status is not something that appears on a medical record, so it is not really part of national cancer statistics, and this has skewed our thinking about cancer risk,” said study co-author Kevin Henry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey.

In fact, in the poorest areas of the country, the incidence of cancer is generally lower than in richer regions. However, deaths from cancers are higher, due in part to better screening habits among wealthier people.

Cancers That Affect The Poor More

Kaposi sarcoma (a skin cancer common among AIDS patients) and cancers of the larynx, cervix, penis and liver occur more often in the poorest neighborhoods, the investigators found.

Kaposi sarcoma is an HIV-related cancer, and HIV patients are likely to be poorer, the study researchers said.

Poorer areas also had higher rates of cancers related to drinking, smoking and using injectable drugs. These are considered modifiable risk factors for cancer.

Since smoking rates are higher in poor areas, so is the incidence of smoking-related cancers, said Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, vice president for surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.

Cancers tied to sexually transmitted disease and poor diet were also more likely in the poorest neighborhoods.

Cancers That Affect The Rich More

In the wealthiest areas, thyroid and testicular cancer, melanoma and other skin cancers were more common, according to the report.

Diagnoses of breast and prostate cancer are also more common in richer areas because of greater access to screening, such as mammography, Jemal said.

The Significance Of Screening

Screening identifies these cancers early when they can be treated. This helps explain why poor people are more often diagnosed with advanced cancer and are more likely to die from these cancers, Jemal said.

These disparities, Jemal added, can be reduced only by targeting poor neighborhoods with messages about living a healthy lifestyle. This means stressing the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, maintaining a normal weight and not smoking, he said.

The study is published online in Cancer.

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