British scientists have analyzed how socioeconomic group, region and age affect the incidence of four different kinds of cancer. They found that cervical and lung cancer are more common in poor people with rates of breast cancer and melanoma being higher in the wealthy.

Researchers from the North West Cancer Intelligence Service and another team working on behalf of the United Kingdom Association of Cancer looked at all invasive cases of lung cancer, cervical cancer, malignant melanoma of the skin and female breast cancer.

Malignant melanoma and breast cancer were common in more affluent groups. The explanation may lie in the fact that women from affluent socioeconomic groups were more likely to have their first child at a later age, have fewer children in their lifetime and take hormone replacement therapy, all being factors associated with a higher incidence of breast cancer. They were also more likely to have holidays abroad and use sun beds and expose themselves to more UV rays, resulting in higher incidence of melanoma cases.

Lung and cervical cancer have been found to occur in the most deprived groups. Lung cancer in these groups has been linked to smoking, which is strongly associated with socioeconomic status. Over 80% of lung cancer cases are attributable to smoking.

There was a great difference in lung cancer rates between socioeconomic groups in people under the age of 65. The statistics are suggesting that the deprived groups are continuing to smoke while the wealthier groups are more likely quit smoking.

Researches that are set to check for links between wealth and cancer risk are important for tailoring government screening programs as well as other preventative measures to local needs.