World Cancer Day: People in most deprived areas of Wales 20% more likely to die from disease

There has been an increase in numbers of people diagnosed with cancer over the past 15-20 years in Wales. Credit: PA

People living in the most deprived areas of Wales are 20% more likely to develop and die from cancer than their more affluent neighbours, according to Tenovus Cancer Care.

Every 30 minutes in Wales someone is diagnosed with cancer, with the cancer gap “widening” between Wales and England.

And only three out of five patients currently survive after diagnosis - and survivors are more likely to be located in the least deprived areas of Wales.

Now on World Cancer Day (February 4), Tenovus Cancer Care is calling on the Welsh Government to develop a new long term strategy to narrow the gap.

There has been an increase in numbers of people diagnosed with cancer over the past 15-20 years in Wales.

From 2002 to 2018, the latest figures available, cancer diagnosis in Wales went up by one-fifth from 16,000 to 20,000. At the same time, survival rates over the same period have improved due to advances in diagnosis and treatment.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid views a proton beam scanner during a visit to University College Hospital in London to mark World Cancer Day. Credit: PA

Lung cancer rates are more affected by deprivation than other cancer types - you are 2.7 times more likely to get lung cancer if you are from a deprived area.

The Welsh Government is committed to improving cancer outcomes in Wales and reducing some of the inequities, it said.

A spokesperson added: "The Quality Statement for Cancer places a specific emphasis on equitable care. This will be achieved through a sustained focus on cancer care pathways that target variation in outcomes. We also need to support people across all communities in ways they can engage with, including lifestyle changes to help prevent cancer developing."

Plaid Cymru is calling for an all-Wales cancer strategy amid waiting times hitting record numbers, to ensure cancer patients aren't subject to a "postcode lottery".

Plaid Cymru's Mabon ap Gwynfor MS for Dwyfor Meirionydd said that ensuring early diagnosis and that gaps in the workforce should be a priority in any cancer strategy.

The issue is very close to Mr ap Gwynfor's heart after his father, Guto, was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and has been receiving treatment throughout the pandemic.

Mr ap Gwynfor said that even before the pandemic Wales had been experiencing significant gaps in the workforce that diagnose and treat cancer which made the importance of an all-Wales cancer strategy all the more important.

Plaid Cymru say it has been two years since Wales had a Cancer Strategy - putting the country at odds with the World Health Organisation's recommendations that every country should have one in place.

'Cancer doesn't care about geography'

Mabon ap Gwynfor MS added: "Early diagnosis is key to ending the worrying trend in cancer survival rates in Wales.

"Any cancer strategy must include long term plans to ensure early diagnosis the development of Rapid Diagnostic Centres is a welcomed development, but for us to get to grips with cancer in a meaningful way we need to plug the huge gaps in workforce.

"A priority in the strategy to treat and beat cancer must reflect how these rapid diagnostic centres are staffed, and how recruitment generally in cancer diagnosis and treatment is secured for the long term.

"Cancer doesn't care about geography, but patients do. They deserve parity of service, wherever they live.

"Scotland and England have cancer Strategies with a buy in from their respective health or commissioning boards. This strategy gives them clear targets and ensures that they have a laser like focus. But Wales doesn't have that comprehensive strategy, instead we have an incoherent mishmash of programmes and frameworks. If we are serious about getting to grips with cancer then we need a cancer strategy."