Social Justice

Risk of dying from cancer much higher in poorer areas of England, shameful study shows

New research has revealed the stark links between poverty and certain types of cancer – including lung cancer, which is the leading cause of death

manchester

One in six women in Manchester died from cancer before they turned 80 in 2019, compared with a one in 10 in Westminster. Image: Unsplash

The risk of dying from cancer is 70% higher in some poorer parts of England than in wealthy areas, new research has revealed.

A study published in The Lancet Oncology has found that the the highest risks were in northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Hull and Newcastle, and in coastal areas to the east of London.

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in England, having overtaken cardiovascular diseases. But the risk of dying from cancer before 80 years old has declined since 2002 – from one in six women to one in eight, and from one in five men to one in six.

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Researchers analysed the risk of dying from cancers with the largest death toll across 314 districts in England between 2002 and 2019, finding that there was a correlation with deaths and deprivation.

One in six women in Manchester died from cancer before they turned 80 in 2019, compared with a one in 10 in Westminster. In Harrow, one in eight men died of cancer before 80, compared with one in five in Manchester.

The risk of dying from cancer was higher for both men and women in districts with more poverty. This was partly due to the risk of dying from lung cancer, the leading cause of death, which has been strongly linked with poverty.

Theo Rashid, author of the report and PhD student at Imperial College London, said: “The greatest inequality across districts was for the risk of dying from cancers where factors such as smoking, alcohol and obesity have a large influence on the risk of getting cancer. Due to funding cuts, many local authorities have reduced their budgets for smoking cessation since 2010.

“Our data shows we cannot afford to lose these public health programmes and are in urgent need of the reintroduction and strengthening of national and local policies which combat smoking and alcohol.”



In 2019, women in Knowlsey, Merseyside were three times more likely to die from lung cancer than those in Waverley, Surrey. Men in Manchester were three times more likely to die from lung cancer than men in Guildford.

Amanda Cross, an author of the report and professor of cancer epidemiology and Imperial College London, said: “Access to cancer screening and diagnostic services which can prevent cancer or catch it early are key in reducing some of the inequalities our study highlights. Those who are more deprived are less likely to be able to access and engage with cancer-screening.

“To change this, there needs to be investment into new ways to reach under-served groups, such as screening ‘pop-ups’ in local areas like supermarkets and working with community organisations and faith groups.”

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