Men's health

Poor men less likely to be treated for prostate cancer

Zone default image Also less likely to be screened

Men living in deprived areas of the UK are far less likely to be treated with radiotherapy or surgery for prostate cancer compared with richer men, a study has found.

Researchers at Cambridge University found that men from the most deprived areas were 26 per cent less likely to have radiotherapy and 52 per cent less likely to have radical surgery.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Each year, around 35,000 men are diagnosed with the disease. In the past 30 years, prostate cancer rates have tripled in the UK, largely due to the the PSA blood test.

In the large study, the researchers looked at data on 35,171 men with prostate cancer between 1995 and 2006, to find out if cancer treatment varied between men from different socio-economic groups. All men were aged 51 and over.

They found that either radiotherapy or surgery was used more often in the wealthiest people.

Nearly 29 per cent of the wealthiest men received radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer compared with 21 per cent of the poorest men.

And surgery was used for more than 8 per cent of the better off men, compared with just 4 per cent of the worst off patients – a difference of 52 per cent.

The results, published online in today's British Medical Journal, remained the same even after factors such as age, hospital of diagnosis and disease stage were taken into account.

The researchers also pointed out that less affluent men were less likely to agree to prostate specific antigen screening (PSA) tests.

Dr George Lyratzopoulos, who led the study, said: "There are two possible reasons why men from less well off backgrounds do not get the same treatment.

"Firstly, they have a higher degree of other illnesses, which means having radiotherapy or surgery may put them at greater risk.

"Also, the way these people process information about the pros and cons of various treatments may be different from those higher up the social ladder.

However, he also added: "Prostate cancer is a complex disease and it is not easy even for doctors to tell whether radiotherapy, surgery or another treatment is best for any particular patient."

This article was published on Fri 23 April 2010

Image © Andrey Ushakov -

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