Regional inequalities in cancer care persist in Italy and can influence survival

Cancer Epidemiol. 2012 Dec;36(6):541-7. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2012.06.006. Epub 2012 Jul 6.


Background: Population-based cancer registry studies of care patterns can help elucidate reasons for the marked geographic variation in cancer survival across Italy. The article provides a snapshot of the care delivered to cancer patients in Italy.

Methods: Random samples of adult patients with skin melanoma, breast, colon and non-small cell lung cancers diagnosed in 2003-2005 were selected from 14 Italian cancer registries. Logistic models estimated odds of receiving standard care (conservative surgery plus radiotherapy for early breast cancer; surgery plus chemotherapy for Dukes C colon cancer; surgery for lung cancer; sentinel node biopsy for >1mm melanoma, vs. other treatment) in each registry compared to the entire sample (reference).

Results: Stage at diagnosis for breast, colon and melanoma was earlier in north/central than southern registries. Odds of receiving standard care were lower than reference in Sassari (0.68, 95%CI 0.51-0.90) and Napoli (0.48, 95%CI 0.35-0.67) for breast cancer; did not differ across registries for Dukes C colon cancer; were higher in Romagna (3.77, 95%CI 1.67-8.50) and lower in Biella (0.38, 95%CI 0.18-0.82) for lung cancer; and were higher in Reggio Emilia (2.37, 95%CI 1.12-5.02) and lower in Ragusa (0.27, 95%CI 0.14-0.54) for melanoma.

Conclusions: Notwithstanding limitations due to variations in the availability of clinical information and differences in stage distribution between north/central and southern registries, our study shows that important disparities in cancer care persist across Italy. Thus the public health priority of reducing cancer survival disparities will not be achieved in the immediate future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Registries
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Young Adult