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Summary

Aims:  The National Health Service (NHS) Cancer Plan aims to eliminate economic inequalities in healthcare provision and cancer outcomes. This study examined the influence of economic status upon the incidence, access to treatment and survival from oesophageal and gastric cancer in a single UK cancer network.

Methodology:  A total of 3619 patients diagnosed with either oesophageal or gastric cancer in a London Cancer Network (population = 1.48 million) were identified from the Thames Cancer Registry (1993–2002). Patients were ranked into economic quintiles using the income domain of the Multiple Index of Deprivation. Statistical analysis was performed using a χ2 test. Survival analysis was performed using a Cox’s proportional hazards model.

Results:  Between 1993–1995 and 2000–2002, the incidence of oesophageal cancer in the most affluent males rose by 51% compared with a 2% rise in the least affluent males. The incidence of gastric cancer in most affluent males between 1993–1995 and 2000–2002 fell by 32% compared with a 7% fall in the least affluent males. These changes were less marked in females. Economic deprivation had no effect on the proportion of patients undergoing either resectional surgery or chemotherapy; the least affluent oesophageal cancer patients with a higher incidence of squamous cell carcinoma received significantly more radiotherapy. Economic deprivation had no effect upon survival for either oesophageal or gastric cancer.

Conclusions:  There has been an increase in oesophageal cancer and a decrease in gastric cancer incidence among more affluent males in the last 10 years. Economic status did not appear to influence access to treatment or survival.