Health chiefs today admitted more needs to be done to tackle Blackpool’s shocking toll of cancer-related deaths after stark new figures laid bare the challenge the resort is facing.
The town is rated in the top 20 worst – and above the national average – for cancer-related mortality, out of more than 150 healthcare areas across the country.
Statistics released by Cancer Research UK put Blackpool in the top five worst in the country for cervical cancer rates, sixth worst based on the number of incidents of cancer and in the top 20 for smoking and lung cancer rates.
Cancer patients receiving treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral is below acceptable Government standards, with Cancer Research UK saying “improvement is needed in this area”.
Coun Ivan Taylor, Blackpool Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “This is a problem for the town. It is something very much on the agenda and is a concern to all of us.
“We need to do more.
“If people have worries about their health then go to the GP as soon as you can.
“People need to take up screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer.”
The figures show the cancer-related death rate in Blackpool is 207 people per 100,000 compared to 172 nationally.
The incidence rate of cancer is 464 people per 100,000 in Blackpool, compared to the English average of 398 per 100,000, and Kensington and Chelsea, the area to come out top with 295.9 per 100,000 people.
Statistics for early diagnosis of cancer showed 83 per cent of cancer patients in Blackpool receive their first treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.
This is lower than the English average of 87 per cent, and below the operational standard for England of 85 per cent.
While the number of people suffering from prostate cancer is below the national average, incidents of lung cancer are rated at 75 people per 100,000, compared to the national average of 48.
Wyre and Fylde’s cancer related death rate is 176 people per 100,000 next to 172 nationally.
Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health at Blackpool Council, said smoking is one of the biggest cancer-related issues to be tackled.
He said: “There is a relationship between drinking, smoking and cancer.
“The work we are doing to tackle smoking, from working with our trading standards team, the police and the airport on sales of illicit tobacco to the work we do to tackle under age sales and help people quit, has been recognised nationally.
“We were disappointed the Government did not do more to press ahead with plain tobacco packaging.
“Many types of cancers are associated with diet and part of the long-term aim of the council’s flagship free breakfast scheme is aimed at encouraging children to have a healthy diet.
“We also vaccinate young women with the HPV vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer and our alcohol awareness work is showing progress.
“In terms of smoking and drinking, we are not the worst in the country, but we are not the best either.”
The figures – collated by Cancer Research from the latest information available from the National Cancer Intelligence Network – allow the public to look at cancer according to postcode, healthcare area or local authority on the charity’s website.
Cancer patient Dr Carl Humphries, 50, from Lytham, who is being treatment for prostate cancer, praised the care he has received. He said: “I got treated very quickly. I feel I got the best treatment.”
Dr Humphries added: “It is just such an unpredictable disease. Cancer cells are so abnormal. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink heavily but I got cancer.”
A spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK said more than four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as not smoking and keeping a healthy body weight. She added: “Anyone concerned can talk to a specialist nurse on freephone 0808 800 4040 or go to www.cancerresearchuk.org.”