Social determinants of breast cancer risk, stage, and survival

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2019 Oct;177(3):537-548. doi: 10.1007/s10549-019-05340-7. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Purpose: Social determinants of health that have been examined in relation to breast cancer incidence, stage at diagnosis, and survival include socioeconomic status (income, education), neighborhood disadvantage, unemployment, racial discrimination, social support, and social network. Other social determinants of health include medical distrust, immigration, status, inadequate housing, food insecurity, and geographic factors such as neighborhood access to health services. Socioeconomic factors influence risk of breast cancer. For all racial/ethnic groups, breast cancer incidence rates tend to be positively associated with socioeconomic status. On the other hand, low socioeconomic status is associated with increased risk of aggressive premenopausal breast cancers as well as late stage of diagnosis and poorer survival. There are well-documented disparities in breast cancer survival by socioeconomic status, race, education, census-tract-level poverty, and access to health insurance and preventive care. Poverty is associated with other factors related to late stage at breast cancer diagnosis and poorer survival such as inadequate health insurance, lack of a primary care physician and poor access to health care.

Results: The results of this review indicate that social determinants such as poverty, lack of education, neighborhood disadvantage, residential segregation by race, racial discrimination, lack of social support, and social isolation play an important role in breast cancer stage at diagnosis and survival.

Conclusion: To address these social determinants and eliminate cancer disparities, effective interventions are needed that account for the social and environmental contexts in which cancer patients live and are treated.

Keywords: African Americans; Education; Food Insecurity; Poverty; Unemployment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Racism
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors