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Open Access Research article

Diverging trends in educational inequalities in cancer mortality between men and women in the 2000s in France

Gwenn Menvielle12*, Grégoire Rey3, Eric Jougla3 and Danièle Luce124

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm U1018, Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, Occupational and social determinants of health, Bat 15/16 Hôpital Paul Brousse, 16 ave Paul Vaillant Couturier, Villejuif Cedex 94807, France

2 University of Versailles Saint Quentin, UMRS 1018, France

3 Inserm, CépiDc, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France

4 Inserm U1085, Irset, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, French West Indies

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:823  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-823

Published: 10 September 2013



Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality have been observed in different European countries and the US until the end of the 1990s, with changes over time in the magnitude of these inequalities and contrasted situations between countries. The aim of this study is to estimate relative and absolute educational differences in cancer mortality in France between 1999 and 2007, and to compare these inequalities with those reported during the 1990s.


Data from a representative sample including 1% of the French population were analysed. Educational differences among people aged 30–74 were quantified with hazard ratios and relative indices of inequality (RII) computed using Cox regression models as well as mortality rate difference and population attributable fraction.


In the period 1999–2007, large relative inequalities were found among men for total cancer and smoking and/or alcohol related cancers mortality (lung, head and neck, oesophagus). Among women, educational differences were reported for total cancer, head and neck and uterus cancer mortality. No association was found between education and breast cancer mortality. Slight educational differences in colorectal cancer mortality were observed in men and women. For most frequent cancers, no change was observed in the magnitude of relative inequalities in mortality between the 1990s and the 2000s, although the RII for lung cancer increased both in men and women. Among women, a large increase in absolute inequalities in mortality was observed for all cancers combined, lung, head and neck and colorectal cancer. In contrast, among men, absolute inequalities in mortality decreased for all smoking and/or alcohol related cancers.


Although social inequalities in cancer mortality are still high among men, an encouraging trend is observed. Among women though, the situation regarding social inequalities is less favourable, mainly due to a health improvement limited to higher educated women. These inequalities may be expected to further increase in future years.

Cancer mortality; France; Men; Women; Education; Time trends