World Cancer Day 2020

Today, more than 50 people in Wales will receive a diagnosis of cancer.

Worldwide, cancer is responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths.

Cancer is an issue that affects us all. Today, on World Cancer Day, we want to raise awareness of the most important cancer issues in Wales, and how we are working together to tackle them and improve outcomes for cancer patients here in Wales, and globally.

Unfortunately, Wales performs poorly on many measures relating to the diagnosis, treatment and survival of cancer. For example, previous reports have shown that Wales is rated among the bottom countries in Europe on five-year survival for a number of common cancers, including prostate, breast, bowel, and lung cancers. To give this context, if Wales could meet the European average, this would represent an additional 300 lives saved every year. If Wales managed to exceed this average and move in line with the best performing countries in Europe, around 600 lives would be saved every year.

The reasons for these poor outcomes across Wales is complex and not fully understood, but one of the most significant factors is thought to be late diagnosis. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment, and ultimately a better outcome for the patient. At Cancer Research Wales, we are investing into several projects around Wales that seek to improve the early detection of cancer. You can read more about some of this research in our project spotlight series.

Globally, there are significant inequalities in cancer outcomes according to socioeconomic status. But the differences between the most and least deprived can also be felt a lot closer to home. It is a sad reality that a patient diagnosed with cancer in the most deprived fifth of Wales is more likely to die from the disease than someone diagnosed in the least deprived fifth. Not only that, these inequalities are becoming more pronounced. The gap in cancer death rate between the least and most deprived areas has increased by 14% over the past 12 years. Death rates continue to fall sharply in the least deprived areas of Wales, but the decline in the most deprived areas has been slower and has shown little improvement since 2009-2013.

The newest data from Public Health Wales, published in December 2019, shows that the difference in new cancer diagnoses between the most- and least-deprived areas also continues to increase. Across the most recent 5 year period, the number of cancer diagnoses in the most deprived areas of Wales is 20% higher than in the least deprived areas. The reasons behind these significant differences between areas are not always clear, but are thought to be related to lifestyle factors and health seeking behaviours.

Nevertheless, these data highlight the real need for research that helps to realise the reasons behind cancer inequalities across Wales and the rest of the UK. With the deprivation gap continuing to widen, it will also become increasingly important to develop new healthcare interventions that help to halt this process and close the deprivation gap in both cancer incidence and mortality. We firmly believe in the power of research to make an impact on cancer outcomes. With your support, we will continue to make a difference for cancer patients in Wales and further afield, now and for the future.