Ever heard of the term "rich man's disease"? Well, research has proved that there is such a thing! According to a new study, cervical and lung cancers are more common in poor people. For the wealthy, it's more of breast cancer and melanoma.
This study provides further evidence of the link between wealth and cancer risk.
An analysis of the incidence of these four different kinds of cancer, conducted on more than 300,000 cancer patients in England - diagnosed between 1998 and 2003 - describes the effects of socio-economic group, region and age.
Lorraine Shack at the North West Cancer Intelligence Service and a team of researchers compared the rates of these four cancers with variations in deprivation. The data were further categorized by the person's age.
"We looked at all invasive cases of lung cancer, cervical cancer, malignant melanoma of the skin and female breast cancer. The deprivation statistics were based on average levels of socioeconomic status in the patient's local area," Shack said.
They found that malignant melanoma and breast cancer were most common in more affluent groups.
According to the researchers, the variations in breast cancer rates may be because "Women from affluent socioeconomic groups are more likely to have their first child at a later age, have fewer children in their lifetime and take hormone replacement therapy. Each of these factors is associated with a slightly higher incidence of breast cancer."
The higher incidence of melanoma in the more wealthy groups may be partially explained by holidays abroad and the resulting exposure to UV.
However, the researchers highlight that sun bed use may have an impact across all socioeconomic groups, particularly in the young.
"It is difficult to estimate sun bed use as most salons are private and poorly regulated. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that sun bed use is increasing in England, particularly for teenagers and young adults. Sun parlors tend to be clustered in areas of deprivation," they said.
The study also found that the highest rates of lung and cervical cancer occurred in the most deprived groups. The higher incidence of lung cancer in the deprived groups is squarely blamed on smoking.
"Smoking is strongly associated with socioeconomic status and over 80 percent of lung cancer cases can be estimated to be attributable to smoking," the authors said.
The study is published in the open access journal BMC Cancer.