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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Deprived more at risk from cancer
By Branwen Jeffreys
BBC News, Health correspondent

Delivering the message
Experts are putting information out on the street
Closing the gap between areas of high and low cancer rates would have a startling effect.

A cancer atlas of the UK produced by the Office of National Statistics shows how closely deprivation and disease overlap.

It is estimated just bringing the areas with worst cancer rates in line with those with the best would prevent more than 25,000 cases of cancer a year.

If that was achieved it would also prevent 17,450 deaths.

The figures are startling, but the problem is highly complex.

There are some obvious links, such as the higher number of smokers in poorer areas.

But there may be many other factors such as lower awareness of early symptoms of cancer.

Highlighting the risks

A huge trailer parked in Derby's main square is part of the effort to chip away at that health gap.

The Cancer Research UK Roadshow is on tour in communities with poor levels of health.

John Sheil
John Sheil was keen to know more

The staff stopping passers-by want to convince them to take an interest in potential risk factors.

These include sunbathing, obesity and high alcohol use.

Sara Hiom, from Cancer Research UK, said survival rates are worse for people in deprived areas.

"This has to be a combination of people not being diagnosed earlier, people presenting generally later with disease which reflects a general ignorance about the disease and the importance of early presentation."

One of the people stepping into the trailer to ask for advice is John Sheil.

He eats healthily, runs and generally tries to keep fit but wants to ask about the risks of sunbathing.

The nurse gives him information about how to apply sunscreen and monitor any changes in his skin.

John is keen to learn more partly because of his family history.

"My own father passed away from lung cancer, he was quite a heavy smoker, but if 30 or 40 years ago there had been something like this giving information it could have been very useful."

There are still some unanswered questions about the connections between lifestyle and cancer risks.

Some are beyond doubt, like the link between smoking and lung cancer.

This summer England will become the last part of the UK to introduce a smoking ban.

Cancer charities hope it will prompt millions to kick a habit which can lead to a cancer with poor prospects of survival.

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