Bowel cancer includes both colon and rectal cancers – and researchers in Scotland found that, in addition to the effects of deprivation on bowel cancer deaths, deprived men were also at greater risk of developing rectal cancer.
Using data from the Scottish Cancer registry, researchers analysed the incidence rate and death rate for five different socio-economic sections of society from 2004 to 2009.2
The study looked at a total of around 12,000 colon cancer cases and more than 6,000 cases of rectal cancer.
Researchers said that the link between rates of rectal cancer in men and deprivation was a recent trend – one that has only become more evident since the mid-1990s.
While the relationship between bowel cancer mortality and deprivation is already well established – this study found that the link is stronger among men.
Study author Professor Robert Steele, based at the University of Dundee, said: “People’s knowledge of bowel cancer risks, screening uptake and lifestyles tend to differ depending on their socio-economic background – these factors may play an important role in why deprivation has more of an effect on men and is more apparent for rectal cancer.
“Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK – around 40,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. Most bowel cancers are in the large bowel (colon), with about 1 in 3 cancers in the rectum.”
Alongside family history of bowel cancer and getting older, obesity and diets high in red and processed meat and low in fibre have an important influence on risk of bowel cancer.
Dr Jane Cope, director of the NCRI, said: “We know from previous studies that people from more deprived areas are more likely to smoke or to be very overweight. They are also less likely to be screened for bowel cancer or to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease contributing to later diagnosis and potentially to poorer outcomes.
“We need new approaches to address these disparities if we are to reduce inequality in cancer survival.”
Hazel Nunn, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “When it comes to bowel cancer people can help stack the odds in their favour by eating a diet high in fibre and low in red and processed meat, not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, maintaining a healthy bodyweight, keeping physically active and seeing a GP as soon as possible if they notice anything unusual about their body.”
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- Steele, P et al. – Associations between deprivation and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in Scotland, NCRI conference 2011 (Abstract)
Notes to editors
1. The Information Services Division is part of the NHS in Scotland. ISD provides health information, health intelligence, statistical services and advice that support the NHS in improving the quality of health and care and helps planning and decision making.
2. Researchers used data from the Scottish Cancer Registry. They analysed the European age standardised incidence rates between 2004 and 2008 and mortality rates between 2005 and 2009. Deprivation was estimated using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (2006).
About bowel cancer
When bowel cancer is found at the earliest stage, there is an excellent chance of survival with more than 90 per cent of people surviving the disease at least five years.
Bowel cancer symptoms include:
- Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo
- A lasting change in normal bowel habits towards diarrhoea or looser stools
- A lump in your abdomen (more common on the right side) or in your rectum
- A straining feeling in the rectum
- Losing weight
- Pain in your abdomen or rectum
If any of these symptoms last more than three weeks, don’t delay – go see your doctor.