Hsiao JR, et al. Cancer Sci 2020.
Many studies have reported a positive association between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and higher head and neck cancer (HNC) risk. Fewer studies have examined the impact of SES on the association between alcohol or cigarette use and HNC risk. The current case-control study (1,104 HNC cases and 1,363 controls) investigated the influence of education, a SES indicator, on the association between HNC and the use of alcohol, cigarettes, or betel quids in Taiwan, a country with universal health
care. Our results showed a larger increase in HNC risk associated with alcohol among those with lower educational level (odds ratio (OR) = 2.07, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.53-2.80) than those with higher educational level (OR = 1.38, 95% CI: 1.04-1.85) (heterogeneity-p = 0.03). Educational level had an influence on the association between alcohol use and HNC risk among those with genetic susceptibility (ALDH2-deficient) to the carcinogenic effect of alcohol. The association between cigarette or betel quid use and HNC risk was similar between the high and the low educational groups. National policies and social interventions have led to the decline in the prevalences of cigarette and betel quid users in Taiwan. In contrast, due the lack of adequate alcohol control policies, alcohol consumption in Taiwan has continued to rise. A higher impact of alcohol on HNC risk among lower SES individuals even with universal health care could be the result of insufficient alcohol control policies in Taiwan.