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Cancer deaths are double in poorest areas

CANCER-related deaths in some poorer areas are double those of more affluent districts, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

The health gap between rich and poor in Ireland is leading to starkly higher rates of cancers in the many deprived communities.

Specialist Dr John Kennedy, chairman of the Irish Cancer Society, said we are more aware of lifestyle changes needed to minimise the risk of developing cancer.

However, he warned that the message about smoking, diet and drinking must be delivered to poorer communities in a new and practical way.

He revealed:

•Head and neck cancers are 1.7 times higher in the poorest areas compared to better off communities.

•Men in areas with the poorest education levels had a 32pc greater risk of lung cancer.

•Women are worst hit by lung cancer if they live in an area with large numbers of jobless, poor education levels and a high proportion of elderly living alone.

lStomach cancer is 1.4 times higher in socially deprived areas.

The Irish Cancer Society, launched its five-year strategy, entitled Towards a Future Without Cancer today and said one of its top aims is to try to close the rich-poor gap when it comes to the disease.

"The society is going to extend its reach into those communities with high cancer incidence and poorer survival rates.

"We are going to work with individuals and organisations from the ground up to find new ways of empowering people to reduce their risk of cancer. We want to work with communities so that they can take ownership and control of their own health futures," said Dr Kennedy, a cancer specialist in St James's Hospital.



HABITS

"A lot is now known about how a person can avoid cancer, but we need to get this information across better. As a nation we are smoking and drinking too much, are overweight and not taking enough exercise. Changing our habits can cut our cancer rate over time and we will be showing how.

"Despite the strides made in cancer diagnosis and treatment in the last few decades, Ireland has become a very unequal society when it comes to health problems, particularly cancer and access to healthcare.

comurphy@herald.ie