This study provides a nationwide representative quantification of the impact of educational inequalities on cancer mortality in Italy.
The study is based on prevalence data and mortality rate ratios according to levels of education obtained from the Italian 2011 census cohort, including >35 million individuals aged 30–74. We estimated the population attributable fraction (PAF) and the number of cancer deaths associated with low education (below university degree) in Italy by sex.
PAFs for low levels of education were 29.1% among men and 13.3% among women, corresponding to 22,271 cancer deaths associated with low education in men and 7456 in women in 2019. PAFs by cancer site in men were: 53.0% for upper aerodigestive tract (UADT), 44.6% for liver, 41.3% for stomach, 41.3% for lung, 37.0% for bladder, 18.5% for colorectal, 9.8% for prostate and 9.1% for pancreatic cancers. PAFs in women were: 44.5% for cervical, 36.1% for UADT, 34.9% for stomach and 13.9% for colorectal cancers. The cancer sites with the highest number of deaths associated with low education were lung among men (7902/22,271, 35.5%) and colorectum among women (780/7456, 10.5%).
About a quarter of cancer deaths in 2019 in Italy may be prevented by reducing the socioeconomic determinants that contribute to educational disparities in cancer mortality.