Health inequalities and deprivation

Deprivation is one of the most significant factors impacting on the numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer, as well as on cancer survival rates. Cancer Research UK estimates that if all socio-economic groups had the rates of incidence of the least deprived, then 19,200 deaths could be prevented across the UK.

Across the East of England, within each system, there are major pockets of deprivation, sometimes these exist adjacent to areas of relative affluence. There is evidence that the following are more likely in areas of higher deprivation: 

- smoking prevalence rates are much higher, obesity is higher, cases are more likely to be diagnosed later giving patients fewer treatment options, treatment is different, survival rates are lower, emergency presentations of cancer via A&E are higher.

The relationship between deprivation and cancer varies by cancer type. Some lifestyle factors that are closely associated with an increased risk of cancer, such as smoking and obesity, are highest in deprived populations. 

Most cancer types show an increasing incidence and mortality in areas of higher socio-economic deprivation. For three common cancers – breast, prostate and malignant melanoma, however, the reverse is true, and higher rates of incidence are prevalent in areas of lower deprivation. 

Across the region, cancer is the second highest contributor to a difference in life expectancy, between the most and least deprived population groups. The contribution of cancer to the life expectancy gap is higher for males than females – with males in the most deprived areas in the East of England expected to live seven years less than the least deprived.