Britain’s poorest women have one of the highest cancer death rates in Europe, according to a comprehensive new study by the World Health Organisation.
They are much more likely to die from the disease than wealthy women in the UK and poor women in many other European countries.
In the United Kingdom, women from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly at risk of dying from cancer of the lungs, liver, bladder and oesophagus (foodpipe), according to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). ), the specialized cancer body of the WHO.
IARC experts led by Dr Salvatore Vaccarella analyzed data from 17 European countries, looking for socio-economic inequalities in death rates for 17 different types of cancer between 1990 and 2015.
Of the 17 countries surveyed, Britain had the sixth worst record for the number of poor women dying of cancer. He had the worst record for esophageal cancer, the fourth worst for lung and liver cancer, and the seventh worst for breast and kidney cancer.
However, the UK has a better record on poor men dying of cancer compared to their counterparts in most of the other 16 countries. It ranked fifth overall, second for cancer of the larynx and pharynx, and third for cancer of the lung, stomach, and colon.
According to the researchers, this sharp gender divide is likely due to the fact that women in the UK started smoking in large numbers a few years after men did. They highlighted the fact that while cases of lung cancer have fallen in men overall in Britain, they have remained stable or increased in women and increased in women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The research team, which included experts from Imperial College and University College London, used educational attainment as an indicator of deprivation.
“Among men, the United Kingdom shows an intermediate level of inequalities in education across all cancers, among the European countries included.
“However, among women, the UK has one of the highest education inequalities in cancer, behind Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland and Norway,” Vaccarella said.
The study, which is published Monday in the Lancet Regional Health, Europe, based its findings on data collected from adults aged 40 to 79 in 17 countries, including England and Wales. For publication purposes, England and Wales have been combined.
Far more poor than wealthy people die of cancer across Europe, he found.
“Across the board, low-educated individuals consistently suffer higher mortality rates for almost all types of cancer, compared to their more educated counterparts, with a social gradient of increasing risk of death with decreasing level of education” , concludes the study.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said women’s health is a key priority and it is taking steps to improve cancer diagnosis and outcomes.
“We are committed to improving the nation’s health and have put women’s health at the top of the agenda by releasing a Women’s Health Strategy and appointing the first-ever Women’s Health Ambassador for the England,” a DHSC spokesperson said.
“We are working at pace to improve outcomes for cancer patients across England, including improving referral rates. During the month of August, 92% of people started cancer treatment within one month of referral.
“We have also opened more than 90 community diagnostic centers so far, which have provided more than 2 million additional scans, tests and checks.”
Meanwhile, the new Tory chairman of the Commons health and social care committee has urged the government to clarify whether it intends to present new plans to address the backlog of cancer treatment following the the Covid-19 pandemic.
Steve Brine, a former health minister, told the Press Association he doubted the government still had plans to present a promised 10-year new cancer strategy to improve early diagnosis, treatment and survival.