Social factors matter in cancer risk and survivorship

Lorraine T. Dean, Sarah Gehlert, Marian L. Neuhouser, April Oh, Krista Zanetti, Melody Goodman, Beti Thompson, Kala Visvanathan, Kathryn H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Greater attention to social factors, such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position, and others, are needed across the cancer continuum, including breast cancer, given differences in tumor biology and genetic variants have not completely explained the persistent Black/White breast cancer mortality disparity. In this commentary, we use examples in breast cancer risk assessment and survivorship to demonstrate how the failure to appropriately incorporate social factors into the design, recruitment, and analysis of research studies has resulted in missed opportunities to reduce persistent cancer disparities. The conclusion offers recommendations for how to better document and use information on social factors in cancer research and care by (1) increasing education and awareness about the importance of inclusion of social factors in clinical research; (2) improving testing and documentation of social factors by incorporating them into journal guidelines and reporting stratified results; and (3) including social factors to refine extant tools that assess cancer risk and assign cancer care. Implementing the recommended changes would enable more effective design and implementation of interventions and work toward eliminating cancer disparities by accounting for the social and environmental contexts in which cancer patients live and are treated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-618
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Breast cancer
  • Disparities
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Social determinants
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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