The impact of national cancer awareness campaigns for bowel and lung cancer symptoms on sociodemographic inequalities in immediate key symptom awareness and GP attendances

Br J Cancer. 2015 Mar 31;112 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S14-21. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2015.31.


Background: National campaigns focusing on key symptoms of bowel and lung cancer ran in England in 2012, targeting men and women over the age of 50 years, from lower socioeconomic groups.

Methods: Data from awareness surveys undertaken with samples of the target audience (n=1245/1140 pre-/post-bowel campaign and n=1412/1246 pre-/post-lung campaign) and Read-code data extracted from a selection general practitioner (GP) practices (n=355 for bowel and n=486 for lung) were analysed by population subgroups.

Results: Unprompted symptom awareness: There were no significant differences in the magnitude of shift in ABC1 vs C2DE groups for either campaign. For the bowel campaign, there was a significantly greater increase in awareness of blood in stools in the age group 75+ years compared with the 55-74 age group, and of looser stools in men compared with women. Prompted symptom awareness: Endorsement of 'blood in poo' remained stable, overall and across different population subgroups. Men showed a significantly greater increase in endorsement of 'looser poo' as a definite warning sign of bowel cancer than women. There were no significant differences across subgroups in endorsement of a 3-week cough as a definite warning sign of lung cancer. GP attendances: Overall, there were significant increases in attendances for symptoms directly linked to the campaigns, with the largest percentage increase seen in the 50-59 age group. For the bowel campaign, the increase was significantly greater for men and for practices in the most-deprived quintile, whereas for lung the increase was significantly greater for practices in the least-deprived quintile.

Conclusions: The national bowel and lung campaigns reached their target audience and have also influenced younger and more affluent groups. Differences in impact within the target audience were also seen. There would seem to be no unduly concerning widening in inequalities, but further analyses of the equality of impact across population subgroups is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / complications
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • England
  • Female
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis
  • Lung Neoplasms* / complications
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors