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Poverty Driving Scottish Smoking

A new Cancer Research UK report finds that poverty is driving smoking and the almost 5,000 cancer cases a year in Scotland

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A new Cancer Research UK report finds that poverty is driving smoking and the almost 5,000 cancer cases a year in Scotland. The landmark report on deprivation and cancer was launched at the Scottish Cancer Conference last week and shows that the burden of cancer is not being felt equally across Scotland.

Cancer Research UK says: “People living in more deprived areas in Scotland are more likely to get cancer and are, sadly, more likely to die from the disease than those in less deprived areas. Cancer death rates are a startling 74% higher in the most deprived populations than the least deprived.

“The report also estimates that around 4,900 extra cancer cases each year in Scotland are due to deprivation. That’s 13 extra new diagnoses per day that could be avoided if the most deprived areas had the same cancer rates as the least deprived.

“The report sets out the urgent need to address inequalities across the cancer pathway, from reducing preventable causes of cancer, to removing barriers to early diagnosis and high-quality treatment, whilst also improving data collection to build a stronger understanding of cancer inequalities in Scotland and what is driving them.”

Scotland has the highest proportion of cancers caused by preventable risk factors than any other UK nation. Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer in Scotland, responsible for nearly 1 in 5 cases. But we also know that smoking is more common in the most deprived populations. In 2019, 32% of people in the most deprived population smoked, compared to 6% in the least deprived.

The Scottish Government has set a welcomed ‘tobacco-free’ target of less than 5% of adults smoking by 2034. However, based on current trajectories, smoking prevalence for the most deprived may not even reach 10% in the next 25 years. Therefore, without sustained efforts to reduce smoking in the more deprived groups, these groups will experience a higher risk of getting cancer for many decades to come.

The Scottish Government has not thrust itself behind vaping to the same level the UK Government has.

Diagnosing more cancers at an early stage is essential for improving cancer outcomes. But catching cancer early in deprived areas can be more challenging. There are various reasons for this,” continues Cancer Research UK.

There is a large gap in the uptake of cancer screening invitations. For example, for breast and bowel screening, uptake is 20 percentage points lower in the most deprived populations compared to the least deprived. Research also shows that amongst deprived groups, there is reduced awareness of some cancer symptoms and people are more likely to report barriers to seeking help. Another significant bottleneck in the cancer pathway for patients in Scotland lies in diagnostic services, exacerbated by regional variation in specialist workforce capacity.”

The report makes a number of recommendations but fails to urge the Scottish administration to make a stronger effort to encourage smokers to switch to vaping.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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