Poor people are 70% more likely to die from cancer

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The risk was highest in northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Hull and Newcastle, plus coastal areas to the east of London.

One in 10 women in Westminster, central London, died from cancer before turning 80, compared with one in six in Manchester.

For men, the threat of early cancer death ranged from one in eight in Harrow, North-West London, to one in five in Manchester.

Experts at Imperial College London analysed data from 2002 to 2019 for 314 districts in England.

Some 2.4 million people were killed by the disease in that period, including 1½ million aged under 80.

Theo Rashid, the study leader and a PhD student, 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 policies which combat smoking and alcohol.”

Researchers said poverty was a key factor in the differences, particularly with lung cancer. Men in Manchester had triple the risk of dying from it than men in Guildford.

Nationally, the risk of dying from cancer before 80 declined from one in six to one in eight for women, and one in five to one in six for men during the 17 years analysed.

Senior author Professor Majid Ezzati, an environmental health expert, said: “Although our study brings the good news that the overall risk of dying from cancer has fallen across England in the last 20 years, it also highlights the astounding inequality in cancer deaths in different districts.”

Professor Amanda Cross, an expert in cancer epidemiology at Imperial, said better screening and diagnostics would be key to closing the gap.

She added: “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 underserved groups, such as screening pop-ups in local areas
like supermarkets and working with community organisations and faith groups.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK boss, said: “Cancer patients should have the best chance of survival, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

She said smoking was the biggest driver of cancer inequality between rich and poor areas.

Miss Mitchell added: “We need the UK Government to address this across all four nations, which is why we support increased funding for stop smoking services and the upcoming legislation to change the age of sale of tobacco.”

Meanwhile, Macmillan Cancer Support analysis suggests more than 60,000 people with the disease could be given at least six extra months with loved ones if waiting times targets were hit over the next five years.

The charity said more were being referred for tests than ever before but too many face unacceptable waits for diagnosis and treatment.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “Reducing inequalities and variation in cancer treatment is a priority for this Government.

“Smoking is the cause of around one in four cancer deaths, and the Government has pledged to introduce a new law to stop children who are 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, to create the first smoke-free generation.”

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