Understanding the age at which persistent socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival become apparent may help motivate and support targeting of cancer site-specific interventions, and tailoring guidelines to patients at higher risk.
We analysed data on more than 40,000 patients diagnosed in England with one of three common cancers in men and women, breast, colon and lung, 2001-2005 with follow-up to the end of 2011. We estimated net survival for each of the five deprivation categories (affluent, 2, 3, 4, deprived), cancer site, sex and age group (15-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65-74 and 75-99 years).
The magnitude and pattern of the age specific socioeconomic inequalities in survival was different for breast, colon and lung. For breast cancer the deprivation gap in 1-year survival widened with increasing age at diagnosis, whereas the opposite was true for lung cancer, with colon cancer having an intermediate pattern. The 'deprivation gap' in 1-year breast cancer survival widened steadily from -0.8% for women diagnosed at 15-44 years to -4.8% for women diagnosed at 75-99 years, and was the widest for women diagnosed at 65-74 years for 5- and 10-year survival. For colon cancer in men, the gap was widest in patients diagnosed aged 55-64 for 1-, 5- and 10-year survival. For lung cancer, the 'deprivation gap' in survival in patients diagnoses aged 15-44 years was more than 10% for 1-year survival in men and for 1- and 5-year survival in women.
Our findings suggest that reduction of socioeconomic inequalities in survival will require updating of current guidelines to ensure the availability of optimal treatment and appropriate management of lung cancer patients in all age groups and older patients in deprived groups with breast or colon cancer.