The connection between food insecurity, housing, and breast cancer

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woman handing out food in food line
Photo: SDI Productions (Getty Images)

There’s no question that socioeconomic status affects the quality of healthcare one receives, especially as we’ve seen in this awful pandemic, with populations of racial and ethnic minorities taking a disproportionately large hit for many reasons. But it turns out that food and housing insecurity also have a connection to ongoing health issues such as breast cancer.

Docwirenews reports that it takes longer for women who are in the midst of dealing with food and housing insecurities to receive a cancer diagnosis, compared to those who aren’t facing similar issues. This is due to lapses in follow-up appointments with doctors, and it’s possible that the delay in a diagnosis leads to greater health complications down the line. Researchers will be presenting a study about this quiet crisis at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Michael D. Fishman, M.D. and assistant professor of radiology at the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release, “Our findings indicate longer lapses between diagnostic imaging and biopsy for patients with unmet social needs, which begs the question: are unmet social needs associated with some amount of breast cancer mortality that could have been prevented? We seek to investigate this in future work.”


A 2020 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that almost one in three renters and one in six homeowners in America experienced housing insecurity issues in the first half of the year. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 11.1% of American households reporting food insecurity in 2018. With today’s current economic state and fewer jobs to go around, there’s no telling what that number is right now. But this brings up the fact that our social status in life affects our health in many ways, and those in need are more in need than ever.