Poverty increases risk of cancer by up to 88 percent in Germany, study reveals

Poverty increases risk of cancer by up to 88 percent in Germany, study reveals

A new study by the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) has revealed that people who are living in poverty in Germany are at a much higher risk of developing cancer.

Study reveals link between poverty and cancer risk in Germany

Overall, the age-adjusted incidence rate of cancer in Germany is decreasing each year. However, a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer has now exposed how, in comparison to the affluent population, poorer people in Germany are at greater risk of developing cancer than before.

By analysing data from between 2007 and 2018, gathered from eight of the 16 German federal states, which represent 60 percent of the national population, researchers from the German Cancer Research Centre found that while the age-adjusted incidence rate of cancer is declining, this positive trend is much more pronounced in more affluent areas of the country. 

Women in poverty are 88 percent more likely to get lung cancer

To create the study, cancer diagnoses at district and regional levels were analysed alongside wages, the rate of employment, the rate of education, the environment and levels of safety. The team found that in 2007, men in economically deprived parts of Germany were 7 percent more likely to develop cancer. The same figure had risen to 23 percent by 2018.

When it came to lung cancer the figures were even more worrying. In 2018, men in impoverished areas were 82 percent more likely to develop lung cancer compared to their counterparts in more wealthy regions, and women were 88 percent more likely to develop the disease.

Economic factors more important for prevention than infrastructure

In looking at the causes, researchers determined that access to adequate healthcare services - such as enough doctors, access to a hospital within a reasonable distance and enough hospital beds - remained quite equal across the eight states considered.

Instead, “Social factors seem to play a much bigger role than general infrastructure,” and are much more important in terms of prevention, head researcher Lina Jansen explained. 

For example, lack of regular physical activity and higher rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption - all of which increase the risk of cancer - are habits that tend to be more prevalent in impoverished areas. “Our results once again show that we need to make special efforts in the future to ensure that everyone can have the opportunity to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and screening examinations - regardless of their postcode,” Jansen said.

Thumb image credit: Andrey Zhernovoy /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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Wade Byron Profe 14:37 | 11 August 2023

The sensationalism is evident here. The title implies that poverty somehow causes cancer, but then buried way down in the last paragraph are the most important facts.