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'Health inequalities' revealed in cancer survival study

Published 02/11/2015

Overall, around 200,000 people with cancer in England are living in the most deprived areas of the country, according to the study
Overall, around 200,000 people with cancer in England are living in the most deprived areas of the country, according to the study
A survey has revealed inequalities in cancer survival rates

Eight out of 10 long-term survivors of cancer come from the most affluent parts of the UK, a study has found.

People who survive for 10 to 20 years or more following diagnosis are far more likely to live in the richest regions, and are more likely to have cancers with better survival rates, such as breast or skin cancer.

Meanwhile, people in poorer areas fare worse and are more likely to suffer from liver or lung cancer, which is caused by smoking and has a poor prognosis.

The new analysis, being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Liverpool, included people diagnosed with cancer between 1991 and 2010 and who were still alive on December 31, 2010.

The research found that people living with skin cancer were two to three times more likely to be living in the least deprived areas than people in the most deprived group.

In England, 25,369 people with skin cancer were from richer areas, while the figure for Wales was 1,334, Scotland 2,0087 and Northern Ireland 773.

The figures for the most deprived group were 8,761 in England, 662 in Wales, 943 in Scotland and 365 in Northern Ireland.

In the most deprived areas across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there were about 68,000 women living with breast cancer.

There were also 36,000 men living with prostate cancer, 30,000 people living with bowel cancer and around 14,000 people living with lung cancer.

In England, people living with cervical, liver or lung cancers were almost three times as likely to come from the most deprived group compared to those living with skin cancer, the study found.

People living with head and neck, Hodgkin lymphoma or stomach cancers were also twice as likely to be from the most deprived group as those with skin cancer.

Overall, around 200,000 people with cancer in England are living in the most deprived areas of the country, according to the study, from Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England's National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN).

Macmillan said people living in deprived areas face higher levels of unemployment and are more likely to be on some form of income support, leaving them much more "vulnerable to the financial impact of cancer".

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan, said: "It is incredibly worrying to see that there are such high numbers of people living with cancer in some of the most deprived areas.

"We know that a cancer diagnosis can often be financially crippling, even more so for those who are already dealing with the highest levels of deprivation.

"Just as people are often left with the long term consequences of treatment, so cancer can have a serious lasting impact on finances. More needs to be done to mitigate this as far as possible."

Julia Verne, head of clinical epidemiology at Public Health England, said: "This report is a stark reminder that people with cancer living in more deprived areas are still facing major health inequalities.

"Prevention is central to our work and taking action on preventable risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and alcohol, which are all associated with deprivation, is crucial in reducing the growth of cancer in the future."

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