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Parental and/or Personal Socioeconomic Circumstances: How to Explain Site-Specific Cancer Mortality Inequalities Among Young Belgian Adults

Both socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood and adulthood are associated with adult mortality. Yet, the relative importance of childhood socioeconomic (SE) conditions is likely to vary depending on the cause of death. This paper will study: 1) whether SE conditions during both childhood and adulthood are associated with overall and site-specific cancer mortality among Belgian young adults; 2) the relative importance of all indicators of parental and personal SEP in explaining differences in cancer mortality. Data were derived from record linkage between the Belgian censuses of 1991 and 2001 and mortality follow-up data for 2001-2011. Parental educational attainment, parental occupational status, parental housing status, and childhood area deprivation were used as measures of parental SEP, and current education as indicator of personal SEP. SE differences were studied for overall and site-specific cancer mortality by calculating age-standardized mortality rates and mortality rate ratios using Poisson regression. Both low parental and personal SEP are associated with higher all-cancer mortality in young adulthood. Personal education seemed to be the strongest indicator of overall and site-specific cancer mortality in young adulthood, independent of parental SEP. Yet, for women, this was partly due to a health selection effect. In the full models, parental SEP was no longer associated with cancer mortality but deprived living conditions still were. Site-specific inequalities were generally more expressed among women than among men. Studies and policies focussing on SE inequalities in mortality in young adulthood should allow for both childhood and adulthood SE conditions.


Katrien Vanthomme, Hadewijch Vandenheede, Paulien Hagedoorn, Sylvie Gadeyne

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