New research has shown that cancer patients who are economically deprived are more likely to develop fatal complications than those who are better off.
Patients with less money were 50 percent more likely to develop a serious illnesses like heart disease, tuberculosis, diabetes or dementia and this would reduce their chance of recovering from cancer.
Over 72,000 cancer patients with different types of cancer were studied between 1997 and 2006 and the results showed that the likelihood of economically deprived patients surviving for one year was significantly reduced compared to patients who were well off.
Dr. Marieke W.J. Louwman, from the Eindhoven Cancer Registry in the Netherlands, said “Remarkably, we found that additional health disorders were common in patients from a lower socioeconomic background for every cancer type."
Why the experts find this so remarkable is unclear. It is a commonly known fact that poor people have a poorer diet, often smoke and live in poorer housing conditions, all of which affect the immune system and its ability to fight disease. Having cancer would suppress the immune system even further, using up all of the deprived person’s reserves.
The higher risk of heart disease in the poor is thought to be due to smoking. Those with lung, bladder, stomach and kidney cancers - types that are often related to smoking - were much more likely to have heart disease.
Pancreatic, breast, bowel and womb cancer have been linked to obesity and obesity is more common in people with less money because they buy cheap and often nutrition-lacking foods.
Dr. Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK said, "It's worrying to see that survival is considerably worse for deprived patients - this research stresses the need to close the gap between rich and poor in health.
The results of this study suggest that the causes of the types of cancer and the health problems common among poorer cancer patients are likely to be down to lifestyle. More work needs to be done to raise awareness in economically-deprived areas about the risks of smoking and obesity and the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise."