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Low Income Linked with Higher Risk of Brain Tumor

Posted on: 05/25/2004

Low Income Linked with Higher Risk of Brain Tumor

Mon 24 May, 2004 23:13
By Alison McCook

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People enrolled in the government healthcare plan Medicaid are more likely to develop a brain tumor than those not on Medicaid, researchers reported on Monday.

All participants in the current study were diagnosed in Michigan, where the household income must fall below 150 percent of the poverty line to qualify for Medicaid.

More research is needed to determine why earning less money may raise the risk of being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, study author Dr. Paula Sherwood told Reuters Health.

"This study was a beginning step to identify a group of people that are at risk," she said.

Working out of Michigan State University in Flint, Sherwood and her colleagues reviewed all cases of malignant brain tumors diagnosed in Michigan between 1996 and 1997 among people between the ages of 25 and 84 years.

Overall, brain tumors were diagnosed in approximately 8.1 out of every 100,000 people. However, among Medicaid recipients, that figure rose to 14.2 out of every 100,000 people. Brain tumors occurred in 7.5 out of 100,000 people not receiving Medicaid, the authors report in the journal Neurology.

Looking closer, Sherwood and her team found that the disparities between Medicaid recipients and non-recipients were most pronounced among younger adults. For instance, male Medicaid recipients under the age of 44 were at least 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumor than men of the same age not enrolled in Medicaid.

Among female Medicaid recipients under the age of 44, the risk of brain cancer was more than twice as high as that seen among their female peers not receiving Medicaid.

However, the disparities between Medicaid recipients and those who were not on Medicaid tended to disappear with increasing age.

"Poverty may accelerate the onset of (brain tumors) among those who are biologically predisposed and may thus deplete the ranks of the predisposed before old age," they suggest.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that the risk of brain cancer may also increase with income, with tumors occurring more frequently in people who live in more affluent areas.

Sherwood said that she and her colleagues looked at non-Medicaid-recipients as a whole, and did not distinguish between middle- and high-wage earners. "It may be the case that people with both high and low incomes are at risk," she said.

SOURCE: Neurology, May 25, 2004.

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