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Wealth gap in cancer test uptake

The progression of cervical cancer into a full-blown disease is twice as likely in poor women than those from better-off backgrounds, a report claims.

A study by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) shows a "deprivation gap", which it blames on the lower take-up of cervical screening in deprived areas.

Screening detects changes in cells that occur before the disease develops, allowing treatment to stop the cancer progressing.

The report found the poorest areas, including parts of the north-east such as Newcastle and Gateshead, and Liverpool in the north-west, 12 women per 100,000 were diagnosed with the disease between 2000 and 2004.

While in Surrey and on the south coast only half that number were found to have the illness.

Professor David Forman from the University of Leeds/NCIN said: "These striking figures show there is still much more that needs to be done to tackle cancer in low income communities.

"Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease – the national screening programme will pick up most cases before they even develop into cancer. Our figures suggest that women living in poorer areas are less likely to attend cervical screening than women who are better off, so they are more likely to develop the disease.

"Higher rates of smoking in most deprived areas and the earlier onset of sexual activity also contribute to the higher rates of cervical cancer."

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