(HealthDay News) — Americans living in high-income areas are more likely to be diagnosed with some types of cancer than people living in low-income areas, according to a perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study authors analyzed data on 4 types of cancers (breast, prostate, melanoma, and thyroid) in high-income counties (median annual income above $75,000) and low-income counties (median annual income less than $40,000).

High-income counties had far higher diagnosis rates for the four cancers than low-income counties, but the combined mortality rate was similar for both. That suggests rates of these cancers are actually similar in high- and low-income counties, the researchers said.

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“Doctors and other health care professionals tend to overstate the role of medical testing in promoting health — particularly in people who aren’t sick,” study coauthor H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH, a professor of community and family medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, NH, said in an institute news release. “A healthy diet, regular exercise, and a sense of purpose are very often the best tools people, at every income level, have to maintain good health.”

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  1. Welch HG, Fisher ES. Income and Cancer Overdiagnosis – When Too Much Care Is Harmful. N Engl J Med. 8 June 2017. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1615069