Smoking is linked to 80% of lung cancers
The difference between the cancer risk of the poorest and the most wealthy varies between English regions, researchers have discovered.
Experts looked at 300,000 cases of common cancers between 1998 and 2003.
They biggest variation was in male lung cancers, where there was a much smaller gap between rich and poor in the east of England than in the north east.
Experts said the paper, published in the journal BMC Cancer, would help cancer prevention work.
The study was carried out by a team from the North West Cancer Intelligence Service and the UK Association of Cancer Registry.
They took information from all eight English cancer registries on breast, lung, cervical and skin cancers.
The team also looked at the age people were when diagnosed with the cancers.
They said it was known that socio-economic status could affect cancer risk.
Lung cancer is usually caused by smoking, which is more prevalent among poorer groups, so it is expected that rates of the disease will be higher there.
The biggest difference was in male lung cancers in the north east - rising from 48 men per 100,000 among the wealthiest to 130 per 100,000 among the poorest.
But the gap was much smaller in the east of England, where 41 men per 100,000 of the most affluent were diagnosed with lung cancer compared with 85 per 100,000 of the most deprived.
The incidence of cervical cancer is much lower, but differences were still seen.
Among the poorest women in the north west, 16 per 100,000 were diagnosed with the disease compared with seven per 100,000 of the wealthiest.
But in London, 10 per 100,000 of the most deprived were diagnosed compared with six per 100,000 of the most affluent women.
There was less variation in breast and skin cancer rates between the richest and poorest, although they were slightly more common among the more affluent.
Lorraine Shack of the North West Cancer Intelligence Service, who led the study, said it showed that measures to help people protect their health and prevent them developing cancer needed to be targeted at specific groups.
"There has been a lot of success with such programmes in the most affluent communities, so we need to aim for the same success in the poorest communities."
Catherine Thomson, Cancer Research UK’s head of statistical information, who worked on the study, added: "It's important that we understand how the level of wealth affects the chances of a person getting different types of cancer.
"This knowledge should help ensure that money spent on screening programmes and on cancer prevention is focused on those groups where the need is greatest."
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information, said: "It is important that everyone adopts a healthier lifestyle which includes giving up smoking, adopting a better diet, drinking alcohol in moderation and avoiding excessive exposure to UV radiation to lower their risk of developing the disease."