Cancer in rural versus urban populations: a review

J Rural Health. 1992 Summer;8(3):212-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.1992.tb00354.x.


Rural-urban comparisons have identified higher age-, race-, and sex-adjusted cancer incidence and mortality rates in urban populations for most anatomic sites, suggesting that rural populations are at lower risk from cancer. Conversely, findings that rural cancer patients are diagnosed at later stages of disease, that higher proportions of rural cancer cases are unstaged at diagnosis, and that rural cancer patients are at a more advanced stage of illness when referred to home health care agencies, suggest that rural cancer patients are disadvantaged when compared to their urban counterparts. This paper summarizes rural-urban patterns of cancer mortality, incidence, and survivorship since 1950; outlines rural-urban differences in utilization of health care services; questions the appropriateness of using rural-urban comparisons of cancer mortality and incidence to evaluate access to cancer care; and suggests potential approaches to the question of whether rural residents have access to cancer care comparable to that available to urban residents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*