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BMJ Open. 2018 Aug 17;8(8):e023569. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023569.

Utilisation of primary care before a childhood cancer diagnosis: do socioeconomic factors matter?: A Danish nationwide population-based matched cohort study.

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Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Medicine, Research Center for Emergency Medicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.



Early diagnosis of childhood cancer is critical. Nevertheless, little is known about the potential role of inequality. This study aims to describe the use of primary care 2 years before a childhood cancer diagnosis and to investigate whether socioeconomic factors influence the use of consultations and diagnostic tests in primary care.


A national population-based matched cohort study.


This study uses observational data from four Danish nationwide registers. All children aged 0-15 diagnosed with cancer during 2008-2015 were included (n=1386). Each case was matched based on gender and age with 10 references (n=13 860).


The primary outcome was additional rates for consultations and for invoiced diagnostic tests for children with cancer according to parental socioeconomic factors. Furthermore, we estimated the association between socioeconomic factors and frequent use of consultations, defined as at least four consultations, and the odds of receiving a diagnostic test within 3 months of diagnosis.


Children with cancer from families with high income had 1.46 (95% CI 1.23 to 1.69) additional consultations 3 months before diagnosis, whereas children from families with low income had 1.85 (95% CI 1.60 to 2.11) additional consultations. The highest odds of frequent use of consultations was observed among children from low-income families (OR: 1.94, 95% CI 1.24 to 3.03). A higher odds of receiving an invoiced diagnostic test was seen for children from families with mid-educational level (OR: 1.46, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.95).


We found a socioeconomic gradient in the use of general practice before a childhood cancer diagnosis. This suggests that social inequalities exist in the pattern of healthcare utilisation in general practice.


paediatric oncology; primary care; public health

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