Poor people more likely to view cancer as fatal

(Medical Xpress) -- People in lower paid jobs are pessimistic about the benefits of diagnosing cancer early and more scared than affluent people to see a doctor about an unusual symptom, new research shows.

The Cancer Research UK-funded study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention today (Thursday), concluded that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds were more fatalistic about cancer.

Researchers interviewed over 2,000 British adults and analysed their attitudes towards early detection and seeing a doctor about worrying symptoms.

Overall, most people were realistic about – believing that half of those diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for at least five years.

But people from the lowest socio-economic section of society were less likely to believe that cancer could be cured – on average they believed that only 26 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for at least five years.

Study author Dr. Rebecca Beeken from the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Research Centre at University College London (UCL) said: “This study shows that people with lower socio-economic status may think it is less worthwhile to detect cancer early because they are more fatalistic about the outcome.

“These differences in the way people perceive cancer could lead to inequalities in cancer survival.”

Only 10 per cent of respondents said they would be too frightened to see their doctor if they had a symptom that they thought might be cancer.

Among people in lower skilled jobs the percentage was 14 per cent compared with 6 per cent among people in managerial or professional jobs.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’ve witnessed huge improvements in cancer survival in recent decades, with UK survival doubling over the last 40 years. But we know that the most deprived patients are less likely to survive their cancer than the most affluent patients, which is a huge cause for concern.

“Reducing inequality in cancer survival is vital if we are to ensure the UK is comparable with the best survival rates in the world. This study suggests that addressing attitudes towards cancer in some of the poorest parts of society will play an important role in doing this.

“We are working to better understand the role that deprivation plays. We know that we need to encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyles and to diagnose all cancers as early as possible – by improving symptom awareness, encouraging prompt visits to the doctor, and by supporting GPs to appropriately refer patients. We also need to ensure that all patients have access to optimal treatment for their , regardless of where they live, their age and their economic circumstances.”

More information: Beeken R J et al., Cancer fatalism: deterring early presentation and increasing social inequalities?, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2011)
DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0437

Related Stories

Poor public awareness of bowel cancer

date Aug 23, 2011

Britons have very low awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer – the third most common cancer in the UK and second largest cause of cancer deaths each year, new research shows.

People fear cancer more than other serious illness

date Aug 16, 2011

More than a third of people in the UK fear cancer more than other life-threatening conditions – such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and heart disease according to a Cancer Research UK survey.

Latest cancer research unveiled

date Jun 20, 2011

Two leading experts from the Division of Cancer Studies at King’s presented their latest research into cancer survival this week at the National Cancer Intelligence Network conference in London.

Bowel cancer risk doubles for men

date Jul 27, 2011

Men’s chances of getting bowel cancer in Great Britain have doubled since the mid 70s - according to new figures released today by Cancer Research UK.

Beta Blockers could stop breast cancer spreading

date Sep 30, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Cancer Research UK scientists are investigating whether beta-blockers hold the key to preventing breast cancer spread and improving survival. Promising early results will be presented on the eve of breast ...

Recommended for you

Spicy treatment the answer to aggressive cancer?

date Jul 03, 2015

It has been treasured by food lovers for thousands of years for its rich golden colour, peppery flavour and mustardy aroma…and now turmeric may also have a role in fighting cancer.

Cancer survivors who smoke perceive less risk from tobacco

date Jul 02, 2015

Cancer survivors who smoke report fewer negative opinions about smoking, have more barriers to quitting, and are around other smokers more often than survivors who had quit before or after their diagnosis, according to a ...

Melanoma mutation rewires cell metabolism

date Jul 02, 2015

A mutation found in most melanomas rewires cancer cells' metabolism, making them dependent on a ketogenesis enzyme, researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have discovered.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.