The association of area socioeconomic status and cancer screening: A systematic review and multilevel study

Sandi L Pruitt, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. The gap between actual and ideal rates of routine cancer screening in the U.S., particularly for colorectal cancer screening (CRCS) (1;2), is responsible for an unnecessary burden of morbidity and mortality, particularly for disadvantaged groups. Knowledge about the effects of individual and area influences is being advanced by a growing body of research that has examined the association of area socioeconomic status (SES) and cancer screening after controlling for individual SES. The findings from this emerging and heterogeneous research in the cancer screening literature have been mixed. Moreover, multilevel studies in this area have not yet adequately explored the possibility of differential associations by population subgroup, despite some evidence suggesting gender-specific effects. ^ Objectives and methods. This dissertation reports on a systematic review of studies on the association of area SES and cancer screening and a multilevel study of the association between area SES and CRCS. The specific aims of the systematic review are to: (1) describe the study designs, constructs, methods, and measures; (2) describe the association of area SES and cancer screening; and (3) identify neglected areas of research. ^ The empiric study linked a pooled sample of respondents aged ≥50 years without a personal history of colorectal cancer from the 2003 and 2005 California Health Interview Surveys with a comprehensive set of census-tract level area SES measures from the 2000 U.S. Census. Two-level random intercept models were used to test 2 hypotheses: (1) area SES will be associated with adherence to two modalities of CRCS after controlling for individual SES; and (2) gender will moderate the relationship between area socioeconomic status and adherence to both modalities of CRCS. ^ Results. The systematic review identified 19 eligible studies that demonstrated variability in study designs, methods, constructs, and measures. The majority of tested associations were either not statistically significant or significant and in the positive direction, indicating that as area SES increased, the odds of CRCS increased. The multilevel study demonstrated that while multiple aspects of area SES were associated with CRCS after controlling for individual SES, associations differed by screening modality and in the case of endoscopy, they also differed by gender. ^ Conclusions. Conceptual and methodologic heterogeneity and weaknesses in the literature to date limit definitive conclusions about the underlying relationships between area SES and cancer screening. The multilevel study provided partial support for both hypotheses. Future research should continue to explore the role of gender as a moderating influence with the aim of identifying the mechanisms linking area SES and cancer prevention behaviors. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Public Health|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Health Sciences, Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Pruitt, Sandi L, "The association of area socioeconomic status and cancer screening: A systematic review and multilevel study" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3302007.