South Asians less cancer aware: UK study

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London | Published: November 1, 2014 4:38:35 PM

South Asian origin people in England are less aware of the warning signs of cancer than white people.

South Asian origin people in England are less aware of the warning signs of cancer than white people, according to research led by King’s College London.

The study of nearly 50,000 people found those with a black ethnic background were least likely to recognise a persistent cough as a possible symptom and South Asians reported more than others that embarrassment could stop them seeking medical help.

The research is being presented at England’s largest cancer conference.
People across England were asked a series of face-to-face or telephone questions about the signs and symptoms of cancer and how likely they were to speak to doctors if they had concerns.

A team of researchers from eight English universities found black, South Asians and people who identified themselves as ‘other ethnic group’ were less likely to recognise all cancer symptoms included in the questionnaire than white respondents, the BBC reported.

While 93 per cent of white participants said a change in the appearance of a mole could indicate the presence of cancer, just 72 per cent of black people and 70 per cent of South Asians recognised this as a potential sign.

Black and South Asian groups were four times less likely to recognise an unexpected lump or swelling as a possible warning of cancer.

In terms of barriers to seeking help, a quarter of white people said they would be worried about wasting a doctor’s time, compared to 19 per cent of South Asians and 16 per cent in the black ethnic group.

“Evidence suggests people of minority ethnic backgrounds have poorer survival rates for certain cancers and they are more likely to present when the tumour is advanced,” lead researcher Maja Niksic was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“We need to find ways to present the right health messages to target different needs and different gaps in awareness to give people the same chance of beating cancer regardless of ethnic background,” Niksic said.

Sara Hiom at Cancer Research UK added: “Thousands of people beat cancer every year and treatment is more likely to be successful when cancer is diagnosed in the earliest stages.

“Getting to know your body and what’s normal for you will help you spot anything unusual or persistent.”

Participants were asked to choose from the following categories: black (included black African, black Caribbean, black other), white (white British, white Irish and any other white), South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other South Asian) and other (Chinese and mixed ethnicities).

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