Reducing social inequalities in cancer: Evidence and priorities for research

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Published: 22 Nov 2022
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Dr Salvatore Vaccarella - International Agency for Research On Cancer, Lyon, France

Dr Salvatore Vaccarella speaks to ecancer about the IARC report.

The report covered the topic of reducing social inequalities in cancer. Dr Vacarella describes the contents of the report.

He goes on to explain that social inequalities in cancer care can be divided into several categories and that local as well as international endeavours are required to reduce these inequalities. 

Collecting data and recording these inequalities is an important step towards improving cancer care.

Dr Vacarella says that although there are some international endeavours to counter the disparity in cancer care in LMICs there is still a lot that needs to be done as this issue hasn't been recognised fully so far.


My talk was about providing an overview of global, national and subnational inequalities in cancer with a strong focus on socioeconomic inequalities in cancer. So what we have shown, we have shown several sources of data, we show in a very short summary that socioeconomic inequalities are probably the single most important factor explaining global, national and subnational inequalities in cancer.

What did the IARC report suggest?

The IARC report, which was done a couple of years ago, was done in collaboration with several international experts on the topic of social inequalities in cancer. It summarised the evidence, the current evidence that is available, and also provided some recommendations on how to reduce social inequalities in cancer.

How can social inequalities in cancer be reduced?

There are different levels, there are different ways in which social inequalities could be reduced. There are inequalities between countries, so between high-income countries, low- and middle-income countries, and also within each country there are inequalities between different socioeconomic groups. So what comes out of the recommendation are, first, that we need to acknowledge that these inequalities exist because so far this acknowledgement has not been done sufficiently but now we are starting to progressively do that. So this is the most important thing; the second is to collect data and to document very well these inequalities. The data that we have so far, they tell us that these inequalities are not exclusively to the responsibility of individuals but governments need to take some action. So it is important to take some action. 

With respect to research, researchers need to keep into account for inequalities so that any intervention, any study, any cancer control measure that is done should provide not only average indicators but also indicators that account for a beneficial impact on also every segment of society.

What has been done so far to reduce social inequalities in cancer?

What has been done so far with respect to the differences between countries, there have been certain initiatives, for instance the global initiative to reduce cervical cancer which mainly is aimed at low- and middle-income countries. So this is a good initiative. And there are other initiatives that are taken within each country to reduce the gap between high and low socioeconomic status groups. But there is a lot that needs to be done because, again, these inequalities have not been acknowledged sufficiently so far. So there are still a lot of things that could be done.