New study finds cancer patients in rural areas at ‘clear survival disadvantage’
People living in rural areas are less likely to survive cancer than those who live in cities, according to a new global review.
Researchers examined 39 studies and found 30 of them reported a “clear survival disadvantage” for rural people compared to those living in urban areas.
The study found those living in the countryside were 5% less likely to survive cancer than their metropolitan counterparts.
The University of Aberdeen research suggests a number of reasons for the discrepancy, such as transport infrastructure and distance from health facilities.
With most services in developed countries centralised in urban areas, it can be more time-consuming and expensive for rural people to travel for treatment, which may act as a deterrent and lead to people being less likely to seek initial treatment or more likely to miss appointments.
Researchers said rural patients may delay seeking help until their symptoms seem more serious than those living in cities, due to the nature of their work or family commitments.
Lead investigator Professor Peter Murchie, a GP and primary care cancer expert from the University of Aberdeen, said: “A previous study showed the inequality faced by rural cancer dwellers in north-east Scotland and we wanted to see if this was replicated in other parts of the world.
“We found that it is indeed the case and we think the statistic, that if you have cancer and live rurally anywhere in the world you are 5% less likely to survive it, is quite stark.
“The task now is to analyse why this is the case and what can be done to close this inequality gap.
“In this paper we have considered some of the potential reasons but these must really be analysed in closer detail.
“The advancement of digital communications is producing new solutions but with more research it should be possible to identify other factors that contribute to this divide.”
The university said it is the first systematic review to ever look at this information on a global scale.
A previous study by the Aberdeen team found people in the north-east of Scotland who live more than an hour away from a cancer treatment centre are more likely to die within the first year after their diagnosis than those who live closer.
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