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Rich people have ‘greater cancer risk’ than poor, study finds

Some of the highest earners among us could have a greater risk of developing cancer than the less well off, a new study has found.

Researchers from Finland looked at the influence of socio-economic status (SES) on the genetic risk for diseases and found that people from a poorer background had higher risks of developing type 2 diabetes and arthritis.

Those from poorer backgrounds are also more likely to develop lung cancer, depression, and alcohol.

However, wealthier people are more at risk of developing breast, prostate, and other forms of cancer.

To find these results, the research team used genomics, SES, and health data from around 280,000 Finnish people aged 35 to 80 at the start of the study.

Study leader Dr Fiona Hagenbeek, says that the initial results mean that it is likely that polygenic risk scores – which measure a person’s risk of a particular disease based on genetic information – could be added to screening protocols for several diseases.

Dr Hagenbeek said: “Understanding that the impact of polygenic scores on disease risk is context-dependent may lead to further stratified screening protocols.

“For example, in the future, screening protocols for breast cancer may be adapted so that females with a high genetic risk and who are highly educated receive earlier or more frequent screening than females with lower genetic risk or less education.”

At doctors appointment physician shows to patient shape of prostate gland with focus on hand with organ. Scene explaining patient causes and localization of diseases of prostate, problems and signs

High earners are more likely to develop prostate cancer. (Getty Images)

“Now we can show that the genetic prediction of disease risk also depends on an individual’s socio-economic background,” study author Dr Hagenbeek, of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, said.

“So while our genetic information does not change throughout our lifetime, the impact of genetics on disease risk changes as we age or change our circumstances.

“Our study focused solely on individuals of European ancestry, and it will also be important in the future to see whether our observations concerning the interplay of socio-economic status and genetics for disease risk are replicated in people of multiple ancestries in higher and lower-income countries.”

A separate study from 2006 found that cancer was more likely in children from affluent backgrounds who group up in rural or isolated areas across the UK.

The study of 32,000 cases of cancer in children across nearly 25 years found that prevalence of cancer was unevenly distributed and that there were ‘clusters’ found in areas such as Cumbria and Dounreay.

The study authors did not give a definitive reason as to why these results were found.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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