The probable reasons: "Less educated people have more risk factors for cancer like smoking and obesity," Jemal said. "They receive less medical services for prevention, early detection and treatment," he added. "Less access to care is a major barrier."
Jemal noted that education remains a strong marker for socioeconomic status. Less educated people tend to have less money and are less likely to seek medical attention for conditions that don't show immediate symptoms, he said.
"In addition, they are less likely to navigate the health care system effectively," Jemal said. "So, they are at a disadvantage."
To help the less educated to achieve the same benefits that better educated people have, Jemal believes there needs to be more emphasis placed on prevention and access to care.
Dr. Alfred I. Neugut, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and co-director of cancer prevention at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, said he wasn't surprised by the findings.
"The upper class in society always does better than the lower class," Neugut said. "Educational attainment in our society is a good marker of your social class," he said.
People who are bright do manage to get better care, Neugut believes. "They are better at taking advantage of what's learned by society in regard to health care," he said.
According to Neugut, it's interesting to note that when there is no treatment for a disease, there is usually no disparity in patient outcomes. "It's only when we develop an intervention that disparities appear," he said.
But there are also a variety of reasons that people don't take advantage of what health care has to offer, Neugut said. These include not knowing about new interventions, being afraid of them or doctors not offering them.
"The bottom line is that tho
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