Linking of primary care records to census data to study the association between socioeconomic status and cancer incidence in Southern Europe: a nation-wide ecological study

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 20;9(10):e109706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109706. eCollection 2014.


Background: Area-based measures of economic deprivation are seldom applied to large medical records databases to establish population-scale associations between deprivation and disease.

Objective: To study the association between deprivation and incidence of common cancer types in a Southern European region.

Methods: Retrospective ecological study using the SIDIAP (Information System for the Development of Research in Primary Care) database of longitudinal electronic medical records for a representative population of Catalonia (Spain) and the MEDEA index based on urban socioeconomic indicators in the Spanish census. Study outcomes were incident cervical, breast, colorectal, prostate, and lung cancer in 2009-2012. The completeness of SIDIAP cancer recording was evaluated through linkage of a geographic data subset to a hospital cancer registry. Associations between MEDEA quintiles and cancer incidence was evaluated using zero-inflated Poisson regression adjusted for sex, age, smoking, alcoholism, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

Results: SIDIAP sensitivity was 63% to 92% for the five cancers studied. There was direct association between deprivation and lung, colorectal, and cervical cancer: incidence rate ratios (IRR) 1.82 [1.64-2.01], IRR 1.60 [1.34-1.90], IRR 1.22 [1.07-1.38], respectively, comparing the most deprived to most affluent areas. In wealthy areas, prostate and breast cancers were more common: IRR 0.92 [0.80-1.00], IRR 0.91 [0.78-1.06]. Adjustment for confounders attenuated the association with lung cancer risk (fully adjusted IRR 1.16 [1.08-1.25]), reversed the direction of the association with colorectal cancer (IRR 0.90 [0.84-0.95]), and did not modify the associations with cervical (IRR 1.27 [1.11-1.45]), prostate (0.74 [0.69-0.80]), and breast (0.76 [0.71-0.81]) cancer.

Conclusions: Deprivation is associated differently with the occurrence of various cancer types. These results provide evidence that MEDEA is a useful, area-based deprivation index for analyses of the SIDIAP database. This information will be useful to improve screening programs, cancer prevention and management strategies, to reach patients more effectively, particularly in deprived urban areas.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Censuses*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.