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Br J Cancer. 2011 Nov 22;105(11):1783-7. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.415. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Childhood leukaemia and socioeconomic status in England and Wales 1976-2005: evidence of higher incidence in relatively affluent communities persists over time.

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Childhood Cancer Research Group, University of Oxford, Richards Building, Oxford, UK.



Record-based studies have generally reported association of higher childhood leukaemia incidence with higher socioeconomic status (SES), but recent findings are less consistent.


We examined records from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours for evidence of this association in England and Wales during 1976-2005. All eligible leukaemia registrations (N=11940) were grouped by year of diagnosis in decades centred on census years 1981, 1991 and 2001 (N=3748, 3922, 4270, respectively). Using data from the census appropriate to the decade, SES for each case was measured by the child-population-weighted quintile of the Carstairs deprivation index of the census ward containing the address at diagnosis.


In each decade, the age-standardised leukaemia rate in the poorest quintile was ∼90% of the rate in the most affluent. Using Poisson regression, the age-adjusted rate ratio per quintile decrease in SES was 0.96 (95% confidence interval 0.94-0.98; P<0.001 for trend) in 1976-1985, 0.97 (0.95-0.99; P=0.008) in 1986-1995 and 0.97 (0.95-0.99; P=0.009) in 1996-2005. Similar association was evident for lymphoid leukaemia, the major subgroup (N=9588 in total), but not for acute myeloid (N=1868) or other/unspecified leukaemia (N=484).


Reported childhood leukaemia incidence in England and Wales continues to be higher in relatively affluent communities. Possible explanations include under-diagnosis of leukaemia in children from poorer communities, and/or association of higher SES with hypothesised risk factors, such as population mixing and delayed exposure to infection.

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