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Cities are revealed as Ulster's cancer hotspots

By Claire Regan

Belfast, Londonderry and Newry were today revealed as Northern Ireland cancer hotspots - suffering "significantly higher than expected" levels of the disease because of poverty.

And people living in Northern Ireland's affluent areas are less likely to develop cancer - but more likely to survive if they do.

Those are just two of the insightful findings of an in-depth study of trends of those developing cancer and surviving it in the province since 1994.

The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) attributes higher than expected levels of cancer in Belfast, Derry and Newry to higher levels of deprivation "and the associated higher levels of tobacco usage".

The NICR this morning released the findings of its study of all cancers diagnosed in Northern Ireland over an 11-year period. The 'Survival of Cancer Patients in Northern Ireland: 1993-2004' study shows that the chances of surviving cancer are getting better for both men and women.

Researchers looked at a geographical breakdown of cancer diagnoses and survival rates and found that those living in a disadvantaged area were less likely to survive.

Increasing incidences of cancer and deaths in certain areas of Northern Ireland are shown in the report to be in line with deprivation. The 20% most deprived areas in Northern Ireland have significantly higher levels of cancer, the report found.

Dr Anna Gavin, director of the NICR, said: "If levels of cancer in Northern Ireland equalled those of the most affluent areas, there would be 16% less cancer cases in Northern Ireland each year."

The report found that survival is also influenced by affluence - with better chances among richer groups than poor for breast, lung and bowel cancer.

It added that the Belfast, Derry and Newry and Mourne council areas had significantly higher than expected levels of cancer cases and deaths.

It said this was driven by high incidences of lung (in Belfast and Derry), stomach (in Belfast and Newry) and bowel cancer (in Derry and Newry).

The report said that this is "likely to be linked to the higher levels of deprivation experienced within these areas and the associated higher levels of tobacco usage".

Dr Gavin added: "If the rates of lung cancer experienced by those in the most deprived groups were the same as the most affluent there would be 300 less cases of lung cancer each year.

"Also there were detectable differences in survival by deprivation group with those in the most deprived fifth of the population experiencing poorer survival for lung and breast cancers."

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie recently released details of the most deprived parliamentary constituencies of Northern Ireland to the Assembly. All but one of the worst seven fell into either the Belfast, Derry or Newry council areas.

The report also details in which council areas there are significantly lower than expected cases and deaths from cancer, per head of population.

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