Poverty condemns poor to cancer deaths

Cancer patient crop

Death rates from cancer are going down - unless you live in poverty

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31st October 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

People from the poorest areas of Scotland are more likely to die from cancer.

New figures show that death rates are 61% higher in the most deprived communities.

NHS Scotland said living in the poorest areas affects your chances of survival – despite an 11% drop in the overall number of deaths over the past year.

You are also more likely to develop cancer if you live in poverty – figures show 27% more cancers diagnosed in deprived areas compared with the most affluent.

It is thought that bad diet, alcohol consumption and smoking are the major drivers of the disparity.

The figures showed that in 2016 a total of 15,814 people died from cancer in Scotland, with lung cancer the most common cause of death, accounting for 4,035 deaths.

Over the decade to 2016, the lung cancer death rate for men had dropped by 23%, compared with 6% for women, reflecting "historical trends in the prevalence of smoking".

However, cancers that were associated with smoking "tended to be strongly correlated with deprivation", the NHS report said.

For cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung, incidence and death rates were three times higher in the most deprived areas compared with the wealthiest.

Overall, breast cancer mortality decreased by 17% for women, while for men the prostate cancer death rate fell by 7%.

However, the mortality rate for liver cancer increased by 55%, with the main risk factors identified as alcohol and hepatitis B and C infections.

The death rate for cancer of the uterus also increased by 71%, which could be linked to changes in fertility and growing levels of obesity.

Trisha Hatt, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "While it's good news fewer people are dying from cancer, we must remember than many thousands of people will die from the illness every year.

"We know that too often people are missing out on the right support. We want to make sure everyone with cancer is offered a care plan outlining how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of life.

"It's also clear from last week's Audit Scotland report that mortality rates from cancer in Scotland are higher than the rest of the UK, and much higher in deprived communities. It's vital that work is done to understand and tackle this."

Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK, said the report highlighted the devastating toll taken by "Scotland's biggest killer".

He added: "Cancer must remain an urgent priority for the NHS. An early diagnosis, followed by speedy treatment, is key to improving a patient's chances of beating the disease."