Influence of socioeconomic status on survival of hepatocellular carcinoma in the Ontario population; a population-based study, 1990–2009

Jembere N, Campitelli MA, Sherman M, Feld JJ, Lou W. Peacock S, Yoshida E, Krahn MD, Earle C, Thein HH. PLoS One. 2012; 7(7):e40917.

Background — Research has shown that people from higher socioeconomic status (SES) have better hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) survival outcomes, although no such research has been carried out in Canada. We aimed to assess if an association between SES and HCC survival existed in the Canadian context.

Methodology/Principal Findings — We conducted a population-based cohort study linking HCC cases identified in the Ontario Cancer Registry between 1990 and 2009 to administrative and hospital data. Logistic regression and chi-squared tests were used to evaluate associations between SES (income quintile) and covariates. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate survival. Sequential analysis of the proportional-hazards models were used to determine the association between SES and HCC survival controlling for potential prognostic covariates. During the period 1990–2009, 5,481 cases of HCC were identified. A significant association was found between SES and curative treatment (p=0.0003), but no association was found between SES and non-curative treatment (p=0.064), palliative treatment (p=0.680), or ultrasound screening (p=0.615). The median survival for the lowest SES was 8.5 months, compared to 8.8 months for the highest SES group. The age- and sex-adjusted proportional-hazards model showed statistically significant difference in HCC survival among the SES groups, with hazard ratio 0.905 (95% confidence intervals 0.821, 0.998) when comparing highest to lowest SES group. Further adjustments indicated that potentially curative treatment was the likely explanation for the association between SES and HCC survival.

Conclusions/Significance — Our findings suggest that a 10% HCC survival advantage exists for the higher SES groups. This association between SES and HCC survival is most likely a reflection of lack of access to care for low SES groups, revealing inequities in the Canadian healthcare system.

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Keywords: Cancer Social determinants of health Access to health care