Investigating socioeconomic disparities in lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and mortality: an Italian cohort study

BMC Public Health. 2024 Jun 7;24(1):1543. doi: 10.1186/s12889-024-19041-4.


Background: Lung cancer is one of the most lethal cancers worldwide and patient clinical outcomes seem influenced by their socioeconomic position (SEP). Since little has been investigated on this topic in the Italian context, our aim was to investigate the role of SEP in the care pathway of lung cancer patients in terms of diagnosis, treatment and mortality.

Methods: This observational retrospective cohort study included patients discharged in the Lazio Region with a lung cancer diagnosis between 2014 and 2017. In the main analysis, educational level was used as SEP measure. Multivariate models, adjusted for demographic and clinical variables, were applied to evaluate the association between SEP and study outcomes, stratified for metastatic (M) and non-metastatic (NM) cancer. We defined a diagnosis as 'delayed' when patients received their initial cancer diagnosis after an emergency department admission. Access to advanced lung cancer treatments (high-cost, novel and innovative treatments) and mortality were investigated within the 24-month period post-diagnosis. Moreover, two additional indicators of SEP were examined in the sensitivity analysis: one focusing on area deprivation and the other on income-based exemption.

Results: A total of 13,251 patients were identified (37.3% with metastasis). The majority were males (> 60%) and over half were older than 70 years. The distribution of SEP levels among patients was as follow: 31% low, 29% medium-low, 32% medium-high and 7% high. As SEP increased, the risks of receiving a delayed diagnosis ((high vs low: M: OR = 0.29 (0.23-0.38), NM: OR = 0.20 (0.16-0.25)) and of mortality ((high vs low M: OR = 0.77 (0.68-0.88) and NM: 0.61 (0.54-0.69)) decreased. Access to advanced lung cancer treatments increased in accordance with SEP only in the M cohort (high vs low: M: OR = 1.57 (1.18-2.09)). The primary findings were corroborated by sensitivity analysis.

Conclusions: Our study highlighted the need of public health preventive and educational programs in Italy, a country where the care pathway of lung cancer patients, especially in terms of diagnosis and mortality, appears to be negatively affected by SEP level.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Lung cancer; Mortality; Socioeconomic disparities; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Disparities in Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors*