Deprivation and Cancer

As cancer is the leading cause of death for most age groups in the country, health organisations and academics are obviously concerned about identifying health inequalities and potential causes among the population. There is a substantial body of research from different countries on this – a quick google scholar search for cancer and “multiple deprivation” nets ‘about 2190’ articles published since 2011.

In May 2014 Public Health England published a report into cancer incidence and mortality data by deprivation in England, produced by the National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research UK. The authors say it is “a stark reminder of the magnitude of the cancer inequalities existing in this country today” and call for increased tobacco control measures to tackle lung cancer as well as health and positive lifestyle awareness programmes targeted at the more deprived.

Below are the incidence and mortality rates for men and women by deprivation quintile:

Cancer incidence across time vs IMDCancer mortality across time by IMD


Interestingly non-melanoma skin cancer is excluded – as the Cancer Research UK site says, “it is one of the few cancers where incidence rates are lower for more deprived men and women and there is a clear trend of decreasing rates from the least to the most deprived.”

Breast cancer was also inversely correlated in this way, with higher incidence rates in less deprived quintiles – however the excess mortality figure here was positive “meaning that, while the more deprived were less likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer, they were statistically significantly more like to die from breast cancer”

One of the key findings was that if rates for all groups had been the same as the least deprived quintile there would be about 19,200 fewer cancer deaths – stats like this are often referred to as ‘excess mortality’ in medical terms.


Cancer Research UK statistics

Cancer by Deprivation in England 1996-2011


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