Wealthier people more likely to avail of cancer screening, says ESRI

Think-tank ‘surprised’ at findings given health insurance offered no advantage

The ESRI looked at the uptake of breast cancer screening in middle to older-aged women as well as prostate cancer screening in men. Photograph: iStock

The ESRI looked at the uptake of breast cancer screening in middle to older-aged women as well as prostate cancer screening in men. Photograph: iStock

 

Wealthier people with private health insurance are more likely to avail of potentially life-saving cancer screening tests in Ireland, a leading think-tank study has found.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), set up to inform government policy, looked at the uptake of breast and prostate cancer testing among middle and older-aged adults.

In its latest research bulletin, it said screening was higher among those in the population who are better paid and better educated.

Women living in Dublin were more likely to go for a breast screen than those outside the capital, while, conversely, uptake of prostate screening was higher among men living outside Dublin than in the capital.

The study, which draws on findings from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), a representative sample of people aged 50 years and older in Ireland, further found that screening for both cancers was higher among those with private health insurance.

Those with neither private health insurance nor a medical card were “significantly less likely to have received a mammogram or prostate screening” than those with just a medical card, researchers Sheelah Connolly and Richard Whyte found.

“The analysis found a strong relationship between private health insurance and the uptake of cancer screening services,” they said in the bulletin.

“This is somewhat surprising given that, in general, private health insurance does not offer an advantage in accessing these services.”

The researchers said more work is needed to better understand the reasons for the higher uptake of screening services among the insured “as they may have important implications for the design and reform of healthcare systems”.