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Socioeconomic status plays a major role in cognitive outcomes

Memphis, Tennessee, March 1, 2021

Researcher in black blouse smiles at camera.

Heather Conklin, PhD, of St. Jude Psychology, contributed to research that studied risk factors of certain cancer treatments in children. 

Childhood cancer and its treatment can result in cognitive struggles. St. Jude scientists are studying the risk factors. They looked at social and economic issues in children with brain tumors treated with radiation.

These patients have the greatest risk of cognitive problems. Scientists followed a group of St. Jude patients for 10 years. The children all had conformal radiation therapy.

For each patient, researchers looked at certain factors. These included the parent’s job, education level, and whether it was a single parent home. The children were from different backgrounds.

The findings show social and economic status is linked to IQ, academics, attention and self-care skills before treatment. The study also shows that this gap widens over time.

“What was most surprising was that for some measures, the contribution of socioeconomic status was even greater than age at treatment, which has typically been the biggest risk factor,” said Heather Conklin, PhD, of St. Jude Psychology.

Neuro-Oncology published a report on this work.

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