Research suggests early-life conditions, including our parent’s socio-economic status (SES), may play an important role in the onset of chronic diseases in adulthood. Although area-level SES measures have been linked to cancer risk, late-stage diagnosis, and cancer survival, population-based studies examining the role of individual SES are limited because this data is not available in population-based registries.
[Dr. , Dr. Antoinette Stroup]
In a recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Dr. Antoinette Stroup, lead author and associate professor of epidemiology and division chief of cancer epidemiology, department of epidemiology, at the Rutgers School of Public Health, along with her colleagues at the University of Utah and Temple University, used parental occupation on the birth certificate as a novel method of ascertaining early-life SES at the individual level to examine cancer incidence.
The study team utilized birth certificates for a cohort of Utah Baby Boomers born from 1945-1959 within two Utah counties to obtain early-life, individual-level SES, based on parental occupation and neighborhood SES based on the birth certificate census tract. The birth certificate records, including parental occupation and neighborhood SES, were linked by the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a longitudinal, population-based resource, to cancer incidence data from the Utah Cancer Registry (UCR). Of the birth certificates examined, 8,989 linked to a cancer registry record.
Females with low SES at birth had lower risk of breast cancer compared to those with the highest SES. SES was also positively associated with melanoma and prostate cancer. In contrast, there was an inverse association among women born into lower SES neighborhoods who had significantly increased risk for invasive cervical cancer. Neighborhood SES had similar effects for melanoma and prostate cancers, but was not associated with female breast cancer. The study team found no association with SES for pancreas, lung, and colon and rectal cancers.
“Our findings suggest early-life SES associations with breast, cervical, and prostate cancer,” said Dr. Stroup, who is the former director of the Utah Cancer Registry and is now the director of the New Jersey State Cancer Registry. “Some of these associations are likely indicative of the SES differences in participation in cancer screening and some may support the critical role of early-life factors on cancer risk in adulthood.”
The study’s novel methodologies, capturing SES at the individual and neighborhood levels at birth, may contribute to improved understanding of the role of early-life SES on cancer risk.
“Baby boomers and birth certificates: Early life socioeconomic status and cancer risk in adulthood” was published in September in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.