The effect of inequalities aggravated by economic recessions in the mortality rates of certain diseases has been previously described. In this study, we analyzed the relationship between socio-economic deprivation and cancer mortality. We focused on lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers in nine European urban areas over three periods: two before (2000-2003 and 2004-2008) and one after (2009-2014) the onset of the 2008 financial crisis.
This is an ecological study of trends. The units of analysis were small areas within nine European urban areas. We used a composite deprivation index as a socio-economic indicator. As a mortality indicator, we used the smoothed standardized mortality ratio, calculated using the hierarchical Bayesian model proposed by Besag, York and Mollié. To analyze the evolution of socio-economic inequalities, we fitted an ecological regression model that included the socio-economic indicator, the period of time, and the interaction between these terms.
In men, socio-economic inequalities in all-cancer and lung cancer mortality were observed in most of the cities studied, but did not increase after the onset of the economic crisis. In women, only two cities (Stockholm and London) showed socio-economic inequalities in all-cancer and lung cancer mortality; there was also no increase in inequalities.
Our results did not validate our hypothesis that inequalities increase in times of crisis. However, they emphasize the importance of socio-economic measurements for understanding mortality inequalities, and can be used to inform prevention strategies and help plan local health programs aimed at reducing health inequalities.
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