Cancer Research UK calls on government to address cancer inequality

A new report published today by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has found that 20,000 additional cancer cases every year could be avoided in poorer areas.

The report highlights the stark inequality between different socio-economic areas, with those from less wealthy areas not only more likely to get cancer, but also have more issues accessing cancer services and are less likely to survive their diseases.

In addition, the report shows the starkest deprivation differences are between cancer rate for smoking-related cancers, such as lung and laryngeal. The rates for these cancers are around three times higher for the poorest communities, as people in these areas are three times more likely to smoke.

People from poorer areas in England were also found to be 50% more likely to be diagnosed through emergency routes, such as A&E. For those people diagnosed via emergency routes, survival is less likely, even when accounting for cancer stage.

Although the reasons for more emergency presentations are complex, people from the most deprived communities may be less aware of cancer symptoms and report more barriers to seeking help.

That includes difficulty in getting an appointment at a suitable time or with a particular doctor, being worried about going for tests or fear of wasting the doctor’s time.

CRUK has called on the government to tackle this cancer inequality when the health service and society begin to recover from the effects of COVID-19. In particular, the charity highlighted the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review as a good opportunity for the government to start to address these issues in the UK.

“The pandemic has exposed long-standing inequalities in healthcare across the UK. Government must pay close attention to the widening gap between richer and poorer areas, injecting much needed money into public health funding, including Stop Smoking Services, to help reduce this inequality,” said Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of CRUK.

“For most cancer types, people from poorer areas have worse survival. Government must work harder to prevent cancer, and improve people’s chances of surviving, no matter their postcode. The inequalities that exist in the UK are unacceptable and must be addressed to prevent unnecessary death,” she added.

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