Report on methodological challenges in deprivation and cancer

A new research report has been published by Public Health England on the challenges in measuring deprivation in the context of cancer. The National Cancer Registry was involved in supplying cancer data for Ireland.

The report entitled 'Deprivation and cancer: in search of a common measure across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland' examines whether there is a common metric within the deprivation measures that can be applied across the five countries of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Currently, each country uses a number of different metrics and methodologies.

Although it is known that deprivation impacts on cancer incidence and mortality rates, due to methodological differences in measuring deprivation, reliable comparisons of the effect of deprivation between countries has not previously been possible. The research aimed to: (1) develop a common deprivation metric that can be used to compare the impact of deprivation in different countries and (2) to test whether the effect of deprivation is significantly impacted by the choice of metric. Three deprivation metrics were considered – the standard measures used in each country in the UK and Ireland, an unemployment metric, and an education metric.

As part of the analysis to find a common metric, the researchers compared cancer incidence and mortality rates in each country after controlling for the effects of deprivation. Results were consistent regardless of the measure used, though the unemployment metric gave a better fit to the standard deprivation measure.

Researchers interested in the effect of deprivation between countries can draw reliable conclusions even when the metrics used to measure deprivation differ.

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