Background: Understanding socio-demographic inequalities in stage at diagnosis can inform priorities for cancer control.
Patients and methods: We analysed data on the stage at diagnosis of East of England patients diagnosed with any of 10 common cancers, 2006-2010. Stage information was available on 88 657 of 98 942 tumours (89.6%).
Results: Substantial socio-demographic inequalities in advanced stage at diagnosis (i.e. stage III/IV) existed for seven cancers, but their magnitude and direction varied greatly by cancer: advanced stage at diagnosis was more likely for older patients with melanoma but less likely for older patients with lung cancer [odds ratios for 75-79 versus 65-69 1.60 (1.38-1.86) and 0.83 (0.77-0.89), respectively]. Deprived patients were more likely to be diagnosed in advanced stage for melanoma, prostate, endometrial and (female) breast cancer: odds ratios (most versus least deprived quintile) from 2.24 (1.66-3.03) for melanoma to 1.31 (1.15-1.49) for breast cancer. In England, elimination of socio-demographic inequalities in stage at diagnosis could decrease the number of patients with cancer diagnosed in advanced stage by ∼5600 annually.
Conclusions: There are substantial socio-demographic inequalities in stage at diagnosis for most cancers. Earlier detection interventions and policies can be targeted on patients at higher risk of advanced stage diagnosis.