Sociology Paper on Socioeconomic Status and Cancer Screening

Socioeconomic Status and Cancer Screening

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Therefore, many health organizations and departments in different countries have pushed for early screening as one of the methods of preventing cancer-related mortality. However, despite advances and campaigns to encourage early screening for cancers such as cervical, colorectal, breast and prostate there still exists disparities in the number of deaths and screening based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status (Froment et al. 409). In essence, therefore, the socioeconomic status of individuals has a great influence on different cancer screening as proceeds in the paper.

Froment et al. note that cervical cancer was among the principal causes of death among women in the US (409). However, with the introduction of Pap smear, there has been a considerable reduction in cervical cancer incidences, although about 12,360 new cervical cancer cases and 4020 deaths related to cervical cancer were expected in 2014 (Froment et al. 409). These new cases and deaths, according to Froment et al. were related to the ethnicity and socioeconomic status of the women, and were particularly visible among Hispanic women.

Similar inclinations to socioeconomic status and cancer are also visible for colorectal cancer. According to Doubeni et al. of the 141,210 new cases of colorectal cancer reported in 2011, a majority of the new cases will be people from low socioeconomic status (3637). Moreover, studies into women health found a close correlation between low socioeconomic status neighborhoods and colon cancer incidences (Doubeni et al. 3637). Smith et al. inform of the role of screening for colorectal cancer in reducing the disease’s mortality (1). Thus, according to research sigmoidoscopy and biennial guaiac occult blood testing done for individuals aged 55 and 60 to 74 years respectively help in the reduction of colorectal cancer (Smith et al. 1).

However, regardless of the importance of screening in reducing the cancer mortality, there are still disparities in the number of people screened for the different strains of cancers. Socioeconomic status especially plays an important role in exacerbating the disparities, with component of socioeconomic status such as education, income and health literacy being associated with higher uptake of cancer screening (Smith et al. 1). This ideally means that in the absence of these components, many from low-income backgrounds do not necessarily access cancer screening services, while some are ignorant of such services.

Disparities in the rates of screening for colorectal cancer are additionally visible among people from different ethnic backgrounds. Liss and Baker enthuse that in the US, racial/ethnic minorities have lower screening rates than the Caucasians (228). Thus, in the US, Caucasians had higher cancer (colon, prostate, breast and cervical) screening rates that their Hispanic, American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islanders (Liss and Baker 228). The influence of socioeconomic status is evident beyond screening to survival rates, with large disparities visible between those from high-income backgrounds in comparison to those from low-income backgrounds. Kish et al. inform of higher survival rates for all high-income individuals for breast cancer regardless of the race or ethnicity (236). Therefore, despite the race/ethnicity, a higher socioeconomic status denoted by higher income, better education and health literacy, leads to better results in both cancer screening and survival rates (Kish et al. 236).

Froment et al. argue that ethnicity influences the incidences of cervical cancer; specifically, they inform that Asian and Hispanic women have the highest incidences of cervical cancer among all the racial/ethnic groups in the US (413). Moreover, lower socioeconomic status, being foreign born and living in ethnically concentrated neighborhoods is linked to higher cancer incidences (Froment et al. 413). Perhaps the barriers related to lower socioeconomic status influence not only the incidences, but also the lack of screening for individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Part of the reason for higher incidences and lack of screening for individuals from lower socioeconomic status include language barriers, lack of knowledge of the US health care system and screening programs (for immigrants) (Froment et al. 413). Moreover, while the bulk of individuals from higher socioeconomic status have health insurance, the majority of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (especially immigrants in California) do not have health insurance. Specifically, while about 34 percent of the immigrant population is uninsured only 12 percent of US-born is uninsured, especially with the advent of Affordable Health Care Act (Froment et al. 414).

Additionally, low income relates to low levels or complete absence of health insurance and lack of access to health care (Froment et al. 414). With this, most individuals with the possibility of developing colon, breast, cervical and prostate cancers from these low-income areas have no access to health care services and screening facilities. Thus, despite screening and early detection of cancer being one of the ways of combating cancer, most individual from low income areas fail to get remedial health services due to their socioeconomic status. Extending healthcare services to these areas by making the services more affordable is one way of reducing the mortality rate in the low-income group. Additionally, health education is a necessity for the low-income group to ensure that they are aware of their health and the health services available.


Works Cited

Doubeni, Chyke, A. et al. “Socioeconomic Status and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer.” Cancer, 118 (2012), 3636-44

Froment, al. “Impact of socioeconomic status and ethnic enclave on cervical cancer incidence among Hispanics and Asians in California.” Gynecologic Oncology, 133 (2014), 409-415

Kish, Jonathan, K. et al. “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Cancer Survival byNeighborhood Socioeconomic Status in Surveillance,Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Registries.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, 49(2014), 236-243

Liss, David, T. and Baker, David, W. “Understanding Current Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Colorectal Cancer Screening in the United States: The Contribution of Socioeconomic Status and Access to Care.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 46.3(2014), 228-236

Smith, S. G. et al. “Inequalities in cancer screening participation: examining differences in perceived benefits and barriers.” Psycho-Oncology, (2016), 1-7