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A steadily increasing pattern of breast cancer mortality has been reported in South Korea since the late 1980s. This paper explored the trends of educational inequalities of female breast cancer mortality between 1983 and 2012 in Korea, and conducted age-period-cohort (APC) analysis by educational level.
Age-standardized mortality rates of breast cancer per 100,000 person-years were calculated. Relative index of inequality (RII) for breast cancer mortality was used as an inequality measure. APC analyses were conducted using the Web tool for APC analysis provided by the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
An increasing trend in breast cancer mortality among Korean women between 1983 and 2012 was due to the increased mortality of the lower education groups (i.e., no formal education or primary education and secondary education groups), not the highest education group. The breast cancer mortality was higher in women with a tertiary education than in women with no education or a primary education during 1983-1992, and the reverse was true in 1993-2012. Consequently, RII was changed from positive to negative associations in the early 2000s. The lower education groups had the increased breast cancer mortality and significant cohort and period effects between 1983 and 2012, whereas the highest group did not.
APC analysis by socioeconomic position used in this study could provide an important clue for the causes on breast cancer mortality. The long-term monitoring of socioeconomic patterning in breast cancer risk factors is urgently needed.