Tens of thousands of UK women dying needlessly from cancer, says report

Tens of thousands of women are dying from preventable cancers every year in the UK, according to a report on gender inequalities and the disease.

Researchers say 24,000 women aged 30 to 69 are losing their lives unnecessarily - and that six in 10 could be avoided through earlier diagnosis and prevention.

They suggest the other four in 10 could be averted by improved access to timely and quality treatment.

Cancer causes and risk factors are also under-recognised and poorly understood, according to the study in The Lancet Global Health journal.

It says only 19% of women at breast cancer screenings in the UK know alcohol is a risk, for example, while being overweight and smoking are among other preventable factors.

Women are dying in the prime of life, the study adds, with more than 5,000 UK children orphaned in 2020 due to the disease.

Overall, researchers say about 2.3 million women die prematurely each year in the 185 countries they looked at.

They say 1.5 million deaths could be prevented by early detection and prevention, with 800,000 avoided if all women could access gold-standard care.

A "myriad of factors" can restrict women's chance to avoid cancer risks, and get a quick diagnosis and quality care, according to the study.

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Researchers claim "patriarchy dominates cancer care, research and policy-making" and want gender considered in all policies and guidelines as part of "a feminist approach to cancer".

"Globally, women's health is often focused on reproductive and maternal health, aligned with narrow anti-feminist definitions of women's value and roles in society, while cancer remains wholly under-represented," said Dr Ophira Ginsburg, co-chair of the Lancet Commission examining the issue.

Co-author Professor Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy added that "women are often expected to prioritise the needs of their families at the expense of their own health, sometimes leading to the postponement of seeking healthcare".