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Poorer women in UK have sixth-highest cancer death rates in Europe, WHO finds

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Poorer women in Britain have some of the highest death rates from cancer in Europe, an in-depth new World Health Organization study has found.

They are much more likely to die from the disease compared with better-off women in the UK and women in poverty in many other European countries.

Women in the UK from deprived backgrounds are particularly at risk of dying from cancer of the lungs, liver, bladder and oesophagus (foodpipe), according to the research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s specialist cancer body.

IARC experts led by Dr Salvatore Vaccarella analysed data from 17 European countries, looking for socioeconomic inequalities in mortality rates for 17 different types of cancer between 1990 and 2015.

Out of the 17 countries studied, Britain had the sixth-worst record for the number of poor women dying of cancer. It had the worst record for oesophageal cancer, fourth worst for lung and liver cancer and seventh worst for breast and kidney cancer.

However, the UK has a better record on poor men dying of cancer compared with their counterparts in many of the other 16 countries. It ranked fifth overall, second for cancer of the larynx and pharynx, and third for lung, stomach and colon cancer.

That stark gender divide is most likely because women in the UK began smoking in large numbers some years after men did so, the researchers believe. They pointed to the fact that while cases of lung cancer have fallen among men overall in Britain, they have remained stable or increased among women, and gone up among women from deprived backgrounds.

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Source: The Guardian, 28 November 2022

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