Breaking the link between cancer and poverty


A new report by the BBC has highlighted the links between poverty and cancer. Statistics from Public Health England show that Manchester, with some of the most deprived boroughs in England, has the highest number of premature deaths because of lung cancer in England and overall cancer rates are also significantly higher than average overall cancer rates.

Many of those cancers are linked to lifestyle, e.g. smoking, eating and drinking, meaning more than four out of 10 cancers could be prevented. However, Professor Sir Michael Marmot of University College London, one of the world's leading experts on health inequalities argues that this high cancer rate is not just down to the choices people make, but also the chances that life offers them.

He said: “Meaningful activity - a fulfilling job for example - can greatly improve the odds of a healthier life. It means you're more likely to make the healthy choices, more likely to eat healthily, not smoke, be physically active, control your weight and the like.

"The other reason is it relates to the body's stress pathways; deprive people of control, that's a more stressful situation. When people are disempowered, when they feel they don't control their lives, why should they bother making the healthier choices such as non-smoking and healthy eating?"

One way the NHS is trying to break to link between poverty and treatable cancer is by increasing the use of mobile scanners and allowing testing to be done near popular and high foot traffic places. 

Overseeing the project is Dr Richard Booton, who said: "If you look at uptake here, for those who've rung for an appointment we're in the 90%-plus of people attending for their screening scan.

"We're right outside a shopping centre, you can pop down and do your shopping and your appointment is the same day. It allows a disadvantaged area to access important screening technology in their everyday lives.”

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Read the BBC report: Breaking the link between cancer and poverty