Cancer deaths higher in north of England

18 Jun 2008

People living in the north of England are more likely to die from cancer than the rest of the country according to the first report produced by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN).

The report  looking at data from 2005 found that cancer deaths are approximately 20 per cent higher in Cancer Networks in the north than the rest of England. Cancer deaths were lowest in Networks in the south and midlands. Experts believe this north-south divide is due to a number of factors especially higher smoking rates in the north which are linked to increased risks of smoking-related cancers.

For example, 68 per 100,000 men in the North of England Cancer Network died from lung cancer in 2005, compared with the England average of 51. The Surrey West Sussex and Hampshire Cancer Network had the lowest rate of deaths from lung cancer with around 36 men in every 100000 dying from the disease.

While lung cancer remains the biggest cause of cancer death in men across England, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in each of the 30 Cancer Networks was prostate cancer. An average of 97 in every 100,000 men were diagnosed with this disease in 2005 compared with 60 for lung cancer but there were no clear geographic patterns in the incidence of prostate cancer.

In women, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in every Cancer Network, with Networks in the south having the highest rates. The biggest cancer killers in women varied geographically, with lung cancer deaths more common in the north and breast cancer in the south.

Professor David Forman from the University of Leeds and information and analysis lead for the NCIN said: "These figures show us that some of the past trends aren't changing - cancer death rates remain higher in the north than the rest of England.

"Smoking is responsible for nearly nine in ten cases of lung cancer. More people in the north smoke and this explains why lung cancer rates are so much higher. There are also higher levels of deprivation in the north which could contribute to cancer risk through other means - we know that deprivation is linked to later diagnosis which can affect mortality.

"The emergence of prostate cancer, ahead of lung cancer, as the most common cancer in men is however a relatively new development and could be due to a combination of a general decline in smoking rates among men and a greater awareness of prostate cancer leading to more men asking their doctor for a PSA test."

For more information visit The National Cancer Intelligence Network