Differences according to educational level in the management and survival of colorectal cancer in Sweden

Eur J Cancer. 2011 Jun;47(9):1398-406. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.12.013. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


Socioeconomic status (SES) affects survival after a cancer diagnosis. The extent to which differences in management can explain this is not known. Record-linkage between two Swedish Regional Clinical Quality Registers of colorectal cancer and a socio-economic database generated a dataset with information on diagnostic procedures, treatment and survival in patients of different educational background. Three thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine rectal cancer patients from the years 1995 to 2006 and 5715 colon cancer patients from 1997 to 2006 were evaluated. Compared to patients with high education, those with shorter education had poorer relative and overall survival (57.9% 5-year relative survival versus 63.8% in colon cancer, 58.7% versus 69.1% in rectal cancer). There were also differences in diagnostic activity with preoperative computer tomography (40% versus 47.3%) and colonoscopy (56.3% versus 62.8%) being more frequent in highly educated groups (p=0.001 and 0.037, respectively). Surgery resulting in colostomy was performed in 26.9% of rectal cancer patients of high education compared to 35.5% of those with low education (p=0.005). Although rectal cancer has poorer prognosis than colon cancer, it was noted that among the highly educated, rectal cancer patients had better survival than colon cancer patients (69.1% versus 63.8% 5-year relative survival). It thus appears that improved rectal cancer management has benefited mainly patients of middle and higher educational levels. We conclude that socioeconomic differences exist in diagnostic activity and management of colorectal cancer, which may affect survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / methods
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Social Class
  • Sweden
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Treatment Outcome