Background: Record-based studies have generally reported association of higher childhood leukaemia incidence with higher socioeconomic status (SES), but recent findings are less consistent.
Methods: We examined records from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours for evidence of this association in England and Wales during 1976-2005. All eligible leukaemia registrations (N=11940) were grouped by year of diagnosis in decades centred on census years 1981, 1991 and 2001 (N=3748, 3922, 4270, respectively). Using data from the census appropriate to the decade, SES for each case was measured by the child-population-weighted quintile of the Carstairs deprivation index of the census ward containing the address at diagnosis.
Results: In each decade, the age-standardised leukaemia rate in the poorest quintile was ∼90% of the rate in the most affluent. Using Poisson regression, the age-adjusted rate ratio per quintile decrease in SES was 0.96 (95% confidence interval 0.94-0.98; P<0.001 for trend) in 1976-1985, 0.97 (0.95-0.99; P=0.008) in 1986-1995 and 0.97 (0.95-0.99; P=0.009) in 1996-2005. Similar association was evident for lymphoid leukaemia, the major subgroup (N=9588 in total), but not for acute myeloid (N=1868) or other/unspecified leukaemia (N=484).
Conclusion: Reported childhood leukaemia incidence in England and Wales continues to be higher in relatively affluent communities. Possible explanations include under-diagnosis of leukaemia in children from poorer communities, and/or association of higher SES with hypothesised risk factors, such as population mixing and delayed exposure to infection.