The charity called on Boris Johnson’s government to address long-standing health inequalities and the “widening gap” between rich and poor areas when it comes to cancer outcomes.
The new study shows that people from Britain’s most deprived communities are not only more likely to get cancer, they have more trouble accessing cancer services and are less likely to survive their disease.
The report shows the starkest deprivation differences are between cancer rates for smoking-related cancers, such as lung and laryngeal.
Rates for these cancers are around three times higher for the poorest UK communities than in the wealthiest ones, as people in these areas are around three times more likely to smoke.
Children from the most deprived areas are also twice as likely to be obese, which leads to a higher likelihood of them being obese as adults — obesity increases the risk of thirteen different types of cancer.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic has exposed long-standing inequalities in healthcare across the UK,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
“Government must pay close attention to the widening gap between richer and poorer areas, injecting much needed money into public health funding, including Stop Smoking Services, to help reduce this inequality.
“For most cancer types, people from poorer areas have worse survival. Government must work harder to prevent cancer, and improve people’s chances of surviving, no matter their postcode.”
Ms Mitchell added: “The inequalities that exist in the UK are unacceptable and must be addressed to prevent unnecessary death.”
The new report shows that people from poorer areas in England are 50 per cent more likely to be diagnosed through emergency routes like A&E. People diagnosed via emergency routes have worse survival rates.
Barriers to seeking help at an earlier stage include difficulty getting an appointment at a suitable time, or fear of wasting the doctor’s time.
Cancer Research UK researchers estimated that if all areas had the same cancer rates as the most well off, the number of cancer cases diagnosed across the UK each year could drop by more than 20,000 — around 60 cancer cases a day.
Although there is no Budget this autumn, the charity urged the government to use the upcoming spending review to boost cancer services in the most deprived parts of the country.
Ms Mitchell said: “Now is the time for the government to show its commitment to the NHS.
“In the upcoming comprehensive spending review, further investment is urgently required to support cancer prevention and to make sure the NHS has the staff and equipment it needs to clear the mounting backlog of patients, improving and transforming cancer services for everyone.”
Last month NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced that “Covid-friendly” cancer treatments that are safer for patients during the pandemic will be expanded and extended through a £160m initiative.
In some cases it has meant drugs can be taken at home so that patients do not have to visit hospitals dealing with a huge backlog in cases.
“Since the first case of Covid in England six months ago, NHS staff have fast tracked new, innovative ways of working,” said Sir Simon. “It is thanks to these incredible efforts that 65,000 people could start treatment for cancer during the pandemic.”
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