Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cancer patients from wealthy areas of Britain have a much better chance of surviving

That pesky social class factor again -- a factor behind a whole host of epidemiological correlations

Cancer patients in the wealthiest parts of the country are far more likely to survive than those in poorer areas, figures show. Those from impoverished households face a much bleaker prognosis with less chance of still being alive a year after diagnosis.

On average, a person diagnosed with any type of cancer in England has a 65 per cent chance of surviving at least 12 months, compared with 62 per cent a decade ago.

But the figures from the Office of National Statistics show a distinct gap between the rich and the poor with those living in wealthy regions enjoying survival rates almost 25 per cent higher.

The report worked out the average one-year survival rate for all types of cancer for every primary care trust (PCT) in England using figures from 2006, the most recent available. It found that those living in Hammersmith and Fulham in West London had the highest survival rate of 70.3 per cent, closely followed by Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea. Bournemouth and Poole, Bromley, Worcester and North Somerset also recorded survival rates close to 70 per cent.

By contrast Newham, one of the poorest PCTs in East London, had the lowest one-year survival rate of just 56.3 per cent, with similarly low figures in Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, and Barking & Dagenham. Rates of around 60 per cent were recorded in East Lancashire Teaching PCT, which encompasses Burnley, and Leicester City PCT.

Cancer experts say the poor are missing out on early screenings and treatments because they are 'intimidated' by the NHS. Professor Karol Sikora of Imperial College, London, said: 'Rich and middle-class people use the NHS far better. By contrast, the poor feel intimidated. 'They are made to feel unwelcome at surgeries and hospitals [How British!] and this means they are less likely to push for treatment or early screenings.

'If a middle-class person gets told they have to wait six months for a screening they will kick up a fuss and be seen. 'They also are more aware of what the Health Service offers.

'Women are more likely to go along for their mammograms and men to their prostate screenings so their cancers will picked up earlier and more easily treated. 'The NHS is meant to be free - but rich people know how to use its services better.'

Catherine Thomson, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'These figures are encouraging and reinforce previous ones showing that in general cancer survival rates have significantly improved over the past 40 years. 'But this study also flags up certain areas, particularly those in the North of England and those which are generally deprived, that are consistently falling short of the national average.

'Late diagnosis of cancer could help explain some of this northsouth divide and why the poorer areas tend to do worse. 'This could help highlight where efforts to promote early diagnosis could be best targeted to help save lives.'


British Food Standards Agency spent £7m on 'nannying' campaigns

The Food Standards Agency has spent nearly £7 million on posters, adverts and leaflets to educate consumers about improving their diets over the last year. MPs and campaigners said the figure was proof that the Agency had wasted taxpayers' money and was "nannying" citizens.

It spent £3.47 million on its salt awareness campaign, including devising a quiz to educate consumers. One question was: "Too much salt is bad for your heart. a. True b. False".

It also spent £554,000 on its Christmas Food Hygiene Campaign, designed to stop families undercooking their turkeys.

The figures were published in a written answer supplied by Anne Milton, the health minister, in response to Andrew Stephenson, the Conservative MP.

Mr Stephenson said: "Whilst I am not opposed to all public awareness campaigns, I thought the salt campaign typified the nannying behaviour of several government bodies. "I was appalled to learn that the Salt Awareness Campaign cost £3.5 milion and that the Food Standards Agency spent a further £3 million on other advertising and PR. I can see little justification for this expenditure, particularly as it took place whilst the country was still in recession."

The FSA, whose budget last year was £152 million, has come under fire for its handling of meat from cloned cows entering the food chain. It was also widely ridiculed for publishing an online guide advising football fans to cut down on drinking beer and eating crisps during this summer's football World Cup.

As well as suggesting fans watching the game in a pub drank fizzy water with a slice of lemon, it also advised: "You could walk to the pub instead of taking the bus, or use half-time for a brisk walk and some fresh air."

Tim Cox, at Liberal Voice, a Liberal Democrat group that campaigns for lower taxes, said: "The news that the Food Standards Agency has spent £6.7 million of taxpayers’ money on public awareness campaigns over the last year is scandalous.

"The British public do not need bureaucrats in Whitehall to tell them when to have dinner, or to advise them on what to eat during the World Cup. This is patronising, self-serving nonsense. The Coalition should cut all similar activities immediately.”

The campaigning arm of the FSA will be transferred to the Department of Health, under plans to slim down the Agency's role.

Ms Milton said that the FSA's campaigns had been effective, pointing out that the results of the most recent urinary analysis survey, which took place in 2008, showed a significant fall in the average population daily salt intake from 9.5g in 2001 to 8.6g.

Many more people were checking the labels on food to see how much salt and saturated fat they contained.


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