Age, Sex, Income and Cancer

Late stage cancer diagnosis influenced by demographics

(RxWiki News) Catching cancer early always offers the best outlook. So why are some cancers caught at later and at more advanced stages? And what can be done to change the patterns?

Four things determine why cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages: income, age, sex and type of cancer.

Knowing these trends can help focus efforts to help people become aware of cancer symptoms, while potentially eliminating some 5,600 advanced cancer diagnoses every year in England.

"Know the symptoms of common cancers."

For this study, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Eastern Cancer Registration and Information Centre looked at what point in the disease process nearly 100,000 people in England had been diagnosed with various cancers.

These included the most common cancers – breast, prostate, lung and colorectal, along with bladder, endometrial, kidney, ovarian cancers and melanoma.

Here’s what the investigators uncovered when they looked at cancer cases diagnosed between 2006-2010:

  • Compared to folks of average means, the poorest people were more likely to have melanoma, prostate, breast and endometrial cancers diagnosed at advanced stages.
  • The increased risk of late stage diagnosis ranged from more than double for melanoma to about 30 percent higher for breast cancer.
  • Along with income, the age and sex of an individual influenced the timing of diagnosis.
  • Older people were more likely to have later stage diagnosis of melanoma, prostate, breast and endometrial cancers.
  • Yet older people were less likely to have advanced disease at the time of lung, bladder and kidney cancer diagnoses.
  • There were no socioeconomic differences in the diagnosis of advanced colon cancer or ovarian cancer.

The reason for late-stage diagnosis of melanoma, breast and endometrial cancers, probably relate to patients not understanding symptoms, the researchers suggest.

“This study documents the importance of awareness of cancer symptoms and signs by patients of all social groups, said lead author Georgios Lyratzopoulos, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. It provides clear evidence about which patient groups would benefit most from targeted campaigns to raise awareness of different cancers.”

These findings, the authors suggest, can help define which groups need to have more information about cancer screenings and symptoms.

This study was published November 14 in the British Medical Journal.

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Review Date: 
November 13, 2012