Social inequalities and cancer webinar

"Social inequalities in cancer: what are they and what can we do about them?", "Socioeconomic inequality and cancer incidence: Quantifying the role of major risk factors" and "The effects of the Affordable Care Act on access to care and cancer outcomes in the United States of America (USA)"

(Past event: Thursday 21 January 2021)



People who have lower social or socioeconomic status or are from marginalized groups tend to have a higher incidence of and mortality from cancer. 

Several factors may lead individuals from low socioeconomic groups to adopt unhealthy behaviours, to be exposed to a wider range and a higher intensity of cancer risk factors, and to have reduced access to treatment and health-care services, compared with their fellow citizens.

This webinar will provide an overview of how the phenomenon of inequalities in cancer is shaped, and of how social and socioeconomic inequalities affect all countries worldwide and all citizens within each country (with examples from the USA and New Zealand). The experts will also touch on strategies to tackle inequality in cancer.


Salvatore Vaccarella, Scientist, Section of Cancer Surveillance

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organization
Lyon, France


Photograph by Virginia McMillan courtesy of New Zealand Doctor

Professor Diana Sarfati, MBChB, MPH, PhD, FNZCPHM. Public health physician, cancer epidemiologist, and health services researcher

Chief Executive, Te Aho o Te Kahu - Cancer Control Agency, Wellington, New Zealand

“Social inequalities in cancer: what are they and what can we do about them?”

This presentation gives a rapid overview of what social inequalities are. It examines what the main drivers for social inequalities are and how inequalities between countries are reflected within countries. Finally, it presents a framework for action to address social inequalities.

Areas of expertise: 

  • Improving equity and cancer outcomes through evidence-based, person-centred care
  • Disparities in cancer outcomes, in particular patient and health system factors that influence cancer survival

Professional posts:

  • Currently National Director of Cancer Control, and Chief Executive of the National Cancer Control Agency of New Zealand. Responsible for providing advice to government on all aspects of cancer control, and for demonstrating progress in relation to cancer control activities in New Zealand.
  • Professor and Director of the Cancer and Chronic Conditions Research Group at the University of Otago.
  • Member of the International Advisory Committee to Lancet Oncology, the Advisory Committee to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Pacific cancer hub, the IARC international expert group on social inequalities in cancer, and the Academic Advisory Committee on the International Cancer Benchmarking Project

Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram

Deputy Head, Section of Cancer Surveillance, IARC/WHO, Lyon, France

“Socioeconomic inequality and cancer incidence: Quantifying the role of major risk factors”

There are clear socio-economic factors related to both cancer incidence and prevalence of cancer risk. Disadvantaged populations more often experience higher cancer incidence (and mortality) and typically have higher prevalence of cancer risk factors than less disadvantaged populations. This lecture covers a few examples of estimations of the proportion of cancer cases attributable to major risk factors across socioeconomic groups, and also discusses what proportion of the inequalities in cancer incidence can be explained by varying risk factors across the groups.

   Areas of expertise: 

  • Cancer prevention and cancer epidemiology
  • International variations of the cancer burden and the role of risk factors on the cancer burden

Education and posts:

  • Medical degree, University of Indonesia, 2001
  • PhD in cancer epidemiology, Public Health Department, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2007
  • Worked at Harvard School of Public Health researching global indicators of cancer burden, 2008-2011
  • Medical Epidemiologist at IARC since 2011

Dr Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD.

Senior Vice President, Data Science Department, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, USA

“The effects of the Affordable Care Act on access to care and cancer outcomes in the United States of America (USA)”

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of care to all Americans in the United States. The law has many provisions, including expansion of dependent coverage that allowed young adults to be covered in their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, and elimination of cost sharing for preventive services, which were implemented in 2010. Medicaid was extended to a broader group of low-income adults on January 1, 2014. This lecture briefly discusses the early effects of these three provisions of the ACA on uninsurance rates, receipt of screening, stage at diagnosis, and receipt of treatments.

 Areas of expertise: 

  • Surveillance and health services research, with a focus on disparities and social determinants of health and the effects of public health policies and programmes on access to cancer care and outcomes
  • Effects of the Affordable Care Act (USA) on cancer care and outcomes
  • Emerging cancer trends in young adults

Professional posts:

  • Senior Vice President of the Data Science Department of the American Cancer Society (ACS), leading an interdisciplinary team of cancer surveillance, health services, tobacco control, and disparities researchers to strengthen the scientific basis for broad and equitable application of cancer prevention and control in the USA and worldwide 
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