Unemployment Adversely Linked to Recommended Cancer Screening

Unemployment is adversely associated with recommended cancer screening, with the association explained by lack of health insurance, according to a study published online Nov. 8 in Cancer.

Stacey A. Fedewa, Ph.D., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues examined associations between unemployment, health insurance, and cancer screening to inform potential impacts of the pandemic on early cancer detection. Data from the 2000 to 2018 National Health Interview Survey were used to compute the prevalence of up-to-date and past-year breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening for nonelderly respondents (<65 years).

The researchers found that in 2000 to 2018, unemployed adults were four times more likely than employed adults to lack insurance (41.4 versus 10.0 percent). A significantly lower up-to-date prevalence of screening for cervical cancer (78.5 versus 86.2 percent), breast cancer (67.8 versus 77.5 percent), colorectal cancer (41.9 versus 48.5 percent), and prostate cancer (25.4 versus 36.4 percent) was seen for unemployed adults. After accounting for health insurance coverage, these differences were eliminated.

“In conclusion, unemployment was adversely associated with guideline-recommended cancer screenings, and this was explained by a lack of health insurance,” the authors write. “Expanding and ensuring health insurance coverage after job loss may mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact as well as the impact of future adverse economic events on cancer screening.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Flatiron Health; a second author disclosed ties to AstraZeneca.

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