Sexism is leading to 24,000 preventable deaths of women with cancer in the UK every year, report claims
Sexism is leading to thousands of UK women dying from preventable cancers each year, a new report claims.
Unequal power dynamics in society are negatively impacting on how women interact with cancer prevention, care and treatment, according to research into gender inequalities in cancer.
The new Lancet Commission found gender inequality and discrimination influence women’s rights and opportunities to avoid cancer risk factors.
It also impedes their ability to seek and obtain timely diagnosis and quality cancer care, lowering their chances of survival.
Despite cancer being one of the leading causes of premature mortality, women’s healthcare is often focused on reproductive and maternal health instead, they said.
It is estimated that 24,000 women in the UK die from cancer which can be avoided (stock image)
Women are not fairly represented in research trials or in leadership roles in cancer workforces, they found.
Academics performed a global analysis on premature deaths from cancer among people aged 30 to 69.
When broken down by country, they estimate that 24,000 women in the UK die from cancer which can be avoided.
Six out of these 10 premature cancer deaths among women in the UK can be averted through prevention and earlier diagnoses, they suggest, while the other 40 per cent, through improving access to timely and quality treatment.
Highlighting gender bias across cancer care, the researchers said women can face a myriad of factors which can ‘restrict women’s rights and opportunities to avoid modifiable cancer risks and impede their ability to seek and obtain a prompt diagnosis and quality cancer care’.
They said ‘patriarchy dominates cancer care, research and policy making’ and called for sex and gender to be included in all cancer-related policies and guidelines.
Smoking, high body weight and drinking alcohol are among preventable risk factors for women in the UK, they said.
Yet, only 19 per cent of women attending breast cancer screening in the UK are aware that alcohol is a risk factor for the disease.
Unequal power dynamics in society are negatively impacting on how women interact with cancer prevention, care and treatment, according to research into gender inequalities in cancer (stock image)
Overall, they found some 2.3 million women die prematurely from cancer each year in the 185 countries studied.
Some 1.5 million deaths could be averted through prevention or early detection, and 800,000 deaths could be prevented if all women everywhere could access gold standard cancer care, according to the findings published in the journal The Lancet Global Health.
Dr Ophira Ginsburg, senior adviser for clinical research at the National Cancer Institute’s Centre for Global Health and co-chair of the commission, said a ‘feminist approach to cancer’ is needed to redress the balance.
She said: ‘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.
‘Our commission highlights that gender inequalities significantly impact women’s experiences with cancer. To address this, we need cancer to be seen as a priority issue in women’s health and call for the immediate introduction of a feminist approach to cancer.’
Co-author Professor Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy, from University Malaya and Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘Gender norms mean 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.
‘This can be exacerbated as gender norms also exclude men from participating in childcare in many settings, meaning it’s hard for a mother to find childcare while they seek care for their own health needs.’
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