How many deaths would be avoidable if socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England were eliminated? A national population-based study, 1996-2006

Eur J Cancer. 2012 Jan;48(2):270-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2011.10.008. Epub 2011 Nov 15.


Aim: Inequalities in survival between rich and poor have been reported for most adult cancers in England. This study aims to quantify the public health impact of these inequalities by estimating the number of cancer-related deaths that would be avoidable if all patients were to have the same cancer survival as the most affluent patients.

Methods: National Cancer Registry data for all adults diagnosed with one of 21 common cancers in England were used to estimate relative survival. We estimated the number of excess (cancer-related) deaths that would be avoidable within three years after diagnosis if relative survival for patients in all deprivation groups was as high as the most affluent group.

Results: For patients diagnosed during 2004-2006, 7122 of the 64,940 excess deaths a year (11%) would have been avoidable if three-year survival for all patients had been as high as in the most affluent group. The annual number of avoidable deaths fell from 8435 (13%) a year for patients diagnosed during 1996-2000. Over 60% of the total number of avoidable deaths occurred within six months after diagnosis and approximately 70% occurred in the two most deprived groups.

Conclusion: The downward trend in the annual number of avoidable deaths reflects more an improvement in survival in England overall, rather than a narrowing of the deficit in cancer survival between poor and rich. The lack of any substantial change in the percentage of avoidable excess deaths highlights the persistent nature of the deficit in survival between affluent and deprived groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • England / epidemiology
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Poverty
  • Registries
  • Social Class*
  • Survival Analysis