Aim: To examine trends in cancer mortality for migrants living in England and Wales.
Method: The Office for National Statistics provided anonymised death records for 1979-1983, 1989-1993 and 1999-2003, and tabulated population data from the 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses for England and Wales. Age-adjusted rates and rate ratios for 16 cancer sites were derived by country of birth and time period.
Results: Compared with the declines for those born in England and Wales, smaller or non-significant declines in groups with historically low mortality lead to a pattern of convergence of rates towards those for England and Wales (e.g. breast cancer among women from the Caribbean or East Africa). However, for migrant groups with historically higher rates this had the effect of either maintaining or widening relative mortality (e.g. lung cancer among men from Republic of Ireland or Jamaica). Higher mortality among the Scots and Irish persisted for a range of cancers.
Conclusion: In spite of general declines in cancer death rates, inequalities in migrant mortality remain. There is an urgent need for prevention and treatment programmes to maximise coverage across all minority groups.