Objectives: In this article studies on the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and risk for cancer at different sites are reviewed.
Methods: The review is restricted to studies conducted in affluent societies, after 1970. Only studies using income, education and/or occupation as SES indicators are included.
Results: A more or less consistent positive association between SES and cancer risk was found for colon and breast cancer. More or less consistent inverse associations were found for lung, stomach, oropharyngeal and esophageal cancer. Inconsistent associations were reported for cancer of the rectum and pancreas. Possible explanations for SES differences in cancer risk are discussed with special emphasis on lifestyle variables related to cancer risk.
Conclusions: It is concluded that it is still unclear whether the reported associations can be (partially) attributed to lifestyle related risk factors for cancer such as smoking, nutritional habits, drinking habits and reproductive factors.