Black women in England more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer

  • Date: 30 January 2023

BLACK women from Caribbean and African backgrounds are more likely to be diagnosed with certain types of cancer at later stages when treatment is less likely to be successful, according to a study by Cancer Research UK and NHS Digital.

This is said to be first study to show that ethnicity is a significant factor in late-stage diagnosis for women with breast, ovarian, uterine, non-small cell lung cancer and colon cancer, and for men with prostate cancer.

Nearly 700,000 diagnoses of six cancer types (breast, colon, non-small cell lung, ovary, prostate and uterine) were analysed in patients across five ethnic groups (White British, Caribbean, African, Chinese and Asian) in England from 2012-2016.

The study found that Caribbean women are more likely to receive a late-stage diagnosis than White women for all six of the cancer types included in the study, while African women have higher odds of being diagnosed with late-stage breast, uterine, colon and ovarian cancers.

Both Caribbean and African women were found to be significantly more likely to be diagnosed with uterine cancer specifically at stages 3 and 4 than White women.

South Asian women (including those from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds) were found to be at higher odds of being diagnosed with late-stage breast and ovarian cancers.

A previous survey carried out by Cancer Research UK found that women from an ethnic minority background were more likely to report they didn’t know any warning signs and symptoms of cancer compared to White women (23 per cent vs 12 per cent).

Women from an ethnic minority background were more likely to report finding it embarrassing and not feeling confident talking about their symptoms than White women. They were also more likely to report being worried about how their pay or earnings would be affected if they needed further tests or treatment (5 per cent vs 1 per cent) and to anticipate difficulties with remote consultations (10 per cent vs 6 per cent).

Jon Shelton, head of cancer intelligence at Cancer Research UK and author on the study, said: “A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. But the earlier it’s spotted, the better your chances of surviving.

“That’s why tackling known barriers to help seeking, whether that’s fear or difficulty accessing a GP, is so important – so more people come forward with symptoms.

“But we also need the Government to ensure primary care and diagnostic services are properly resourced. If people can’t get appointments that work for them, aren’t being referred for tests in a timely way or are languishing on wait lists they will not see the benefits of early diagnosis. And we risk exacerbating these inequalities.”

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Save this article

Save this article to a list of favourite articles which members can access in their account.

Save to library

Related Content

Consent checklist

Coroner's inquests

Equality, diversity and inclusion workshop

For registration, or any login issues, please visit our login page.