Childhood Socioeconomic Status Might Affect Cancer Risk

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A new study suggests your socioeconomic status at birth impacts your risk for certain cancers later in life — although not necessarily in ways you might assume.

The research was based on an analysis of data on baby boomers born from 1945 through 1959 in two Utah counties. Their socioeconomic status at birth was determined by factors such as their parents’ occupations and neighborhood.

The researchers found that people born to parents with high occupational standing had higher risks of all of the following when compared with people born to parents with lower occupational standing:

  • Melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer)
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer

When compared with people born in neighborhoods with higher socioeconomic status, people born in neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status faced a higher risk of invasive cervical cancer. However, they had lower risks of melanoma and prostate cancer.

The work by researchers at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the University of Utah and Temple University was recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Senior author Ken Smith, a researcher at University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute and a professor of family studies and population science at the university, notes:

“This study shows that early-life socioeconomic status, based on factors such as parental occupation at birth, may be associated with cancer risk in adulthood. Using this information, we may be able to identify individuals who are at higher risk for cancer due to socioeconomic status at birth, and ideally, work to find strategies to help them manage their cancer risk in adulthood.”

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