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12-11-2012 | General practice | Article

Inequality leads to late cancer diagnoses


Free abstract

medwireNews: Socio-demographic inequalities account for around 5,600 cancer diagnoses made at an advanced stage each year in England, shows University of Cambridge research. The authors believe that lack of awareness among certain social groups could explain, in part, why the UK has lower cancer survival rates than many other European countries.

"We know that earlier stage diagnosis of cancer is important - it dramatically improves the effectiveness of treatment and survival for many cancers," said Dr Georgios Lyratzopoulos in a press statement. "This study highlights the importance of awareness of cancer symptoms and how people of different social groups react to such symptoms."

Lyratzopoulos and colleagues used data from 88,657 patients from the East of England who had been diagnosed with one of ten common cancers between 2006 and 2010.

They found that, overall, being male, increasing deprivation, and increasing age were associated with higher probability of late cancer diagnosis.

Deprivation was specifically associated with late diagnosis in melanoma, breast, endometrial and prostate cancers.

Older patients (≥ 70 years) with these cancers were also more likely to be diagnosed in the advanced stage compared with patients aged 65-69 years. However, older patients with bladder, lung and renal cancer were less likely to be diagnosed in the advanced stage.

Lyratzopoulos and colleagues say this inverse relationship is unlikely to be due to greater symptom awareness in older patients, and more probably due to these cancers being picked up incidentally during tests for other morbidities.

They conclude that, because melanoma, breast and endometrial cancer are normally quick to diagnose after presentation, low awareness of symptoms could explain the social variation observed.

"Avoiding a patchy dissemination of awareness messages among different social groups is important to prevent future inequalities in early diagnosis," states author Dr David Greenberg.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter