June 18, 2008

North-South Divide Over Cancer Deaths ; Death Rate in Region is 20% Above Average

By Sam Wood

PEOPLE living in the north of England are more likely to die from cancer than those living in the rest of the country, according to a report released today.

The National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) says cancer deaths in the region are about 20% higher than the rest of England.

Experts believe the north-south divide is due to a number of factors, especially higher smoking rates in the north, which are linked to increased risks of smoking-related cancers.

In 2005, 68 men in every 100,000 in the north died from lung cancer, compared a the national average of 51 per 100,000.

While lung cancer remains the biggest cause of cancer death in men across England, the most commonly diagnosed cancer was prostate cancer.

In women, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease. The biggest cancer killers in women varied geographically, with lung cancer deaths more common in the north and breast cancer in the south.

Professor David Forman, from the University of Leeds and information and analysis lead for the NCIN, said: "These figures show us that some of the past trends aren't changing - cancer death rates remain higher in the north than the rest of England.

"Smoking is responsible for nearly nine in 10 cases of lung cancer. More people in the North smoke, and this explains why lung cancer rates are so much higher.

"There are also higher levels of deprivation in the North, which could contribute to cancer risk through other means - we know that deprivation is linked to later diagnosis, which can affect mortality."

One cancer sufferer in the region said he thought low levels of awareness could also be contributing to the high rate of death.

Stafford Scholes, 77, of College View, Esh Winning, County Durham, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001.

The retired lecturer at Sunderland University, who now campaigns to raise cancer awareness, said: "There is a definite lack of awareness amongst men in the North East.

"I didn't know much about the symptoms myself and if I had been checked out earlier my chances of survival would have been a lot greater. The message to people is to get themselves checked out as soon as they start getting symptoms."

The study was carried out using data from 2005.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Tackling health inequalities is one of our top priorities.

"One of the key aims of the Cancer Reform Strategy is to reduce inequalities in cancer incidence and increase access to high quality cancer care and cancer outcomes.

"We have established the National Cancer Equality Initiative to look at cancer inequalities and take forward research in this area to inform development of policy on this issue."


NORTH East regional director of public health Dr Stephen Singleton said although the situation with cancer was improving, he was aware of the issue facing the region.

He said: "The higher than average prevalence of smoking in the region is a major factor. Encouragingly, there is some evidence this is coming down.

"But more needs to be done and that's why we are continuing to invest in Fresh, Smoke Free North East - the first regional tobacco control group in England - to bring a co-ordinated approach to this problem.

"Our Better Health, Fairer Health strategy launched earlier this year pledged to undertake a sustained cancer awareness campaign in the North East.

"This will focus on those forms of the disease for which there is evidence of poorer outcomes as a result of presenting too late to healthcare services.

"In conjunction with the North East Cancer Registry, we will also develop an indicator of average stage of diagnosis for patients presenting in the North East and elsewhere against which we can measure progress in encouraging people to seek help early and thereby increase their chance of effective treatment."

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.