Ethnic inequalities in routes to diagnosis of cancer: a population-based UK cohort study

Br J Cancer. 2022 Sep;127(5):863-871. doi: 10.1038/s41416-022-01847-x. Epub 2022 Jun 6.


Background: UK Asian and Black ethnic groups have poorer outcomes for some cancers and are less likely to report a positive care experience than their White counterparts. This study investigated ethnic differences in the route to diagnosis (RTD) to identify areas in patients' cancer journeys where inequalities lie, and targeted intervention might have optimum impact.

Methods: We analysed data of 243,825 patients with 10 cancers (2006-2016) from the RTD project linked to primary care data. Crude and adjusted proportions of patients diagnosed via six routes (emergency, elective GP referral, two-week wait (2WW), screen-detected, hospital, and Other routes) were calculated by ethnicity. Adjusted odds ratios (including two-way interactions between cancer and age, sex, IMD, and ethnicity) determined cancer-specific differences in RTD by ethnicity.

Results: Across the 10 cancers studied, most patients were diagnosed via 2WW (36.4%), elective GP referral (23.2%), emergency (18.2%), hospital routes (10.3%), and screening (8.61%). Patients of Other ethnic group had the highest proportion of diagnosis via the emergency route, followed by White patients. Asian and Black group were more likely to be GP-referred, with the Black and Mixed groups also more likely to follow the 2WW route. However, there were notable cancer-specific differences in the RTD by ethnicity.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that, where inequalities exist, the adverse cancer outcomes among Asian and Black patients are unlikely to be arising solely from a poorer diagnostic process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Referral and Consultation
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology