This site is intended for health professionals only

Poor "less likely to receive cancer treatment"

Men from the most deprived areas of the UK are much less likely to get curative treatment for prostate cancer than those from affluent backgrounds, according to research.

Patients from poorer parts of the country are 52% less likely to receive radical surgery than those from better-off backgrounds, while they are also 26% less likely to have radiotherapy, a large scale study has found.

Experts have suggested social factors could be important; for example, better-educated and richer patients may have more information to work with and may find communicating with doctors easier.

Approximately 10,000 men die from prostate cancer each year, while 35,000 are diagnosed with the disease. Prostate cancer survival rates have increased to about 80% in the most affluent areas and those at the top of the socio-economic ladder are 20-40% more likely to have the disease picked up.

This is thought to be partly because men from affluent backgrounds are more willing to be tested for PSA (prostate specific antigen), a blood marker linked to prostate cancer.

The new research, led by Dr Georgios Lyratzopoulos from Cambridge University, looked at data on 35,171 patients aged 51 and over. The findings have been published in the British Medical Journal.

Commenting on the results, two Finnish experts, Dr Kari Tikkinen from Helsinki University Central Hospital and Professor Anssi Auvinen from the University of Tampere, wrote: "Better educated patients may process information more easily and doctor-patient communication may be more effective or fluent when doctor and patient have similar social backgrounds."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

British Medical Journal