Women's survival 'is a lottery'

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The Independent Online
Women are victims of a "shameful" health lottery with 60 per cent of district health authorities likely to fail the Government's targets for the reduction of breast cancer deaths by the year 2000, the Labour Party claimed yesterday.

Variations in mortality rates between districts can differ by as much as 170 per cent and three out of eight regional health authorities are also unlikely to meet the Government's target of a 25-per-cent reduction in breast cancer deaths between 1990 and 2000.

Breast cancer killed almost 14,000 women in the UK in 1992. It is responsible for about 20 per cent of cancer deaths and 5 per cent of all deaths in women. In an area of average breast cancer mortality, the disease will affect one in every 1,163 of the population, the report showed. But in the worst area this rises to one in 800 and in the best area it decreases to one in 2,222. The average rate of mortality was 86 per 100,000 population. A total of 55 district health authorities fall on or above the average. The other 57 fall below.

South Essex was identified as the English authority with the highest mortality rate - 125 deaths per 100,000 population. At the other end of the scale, South West Surrey, with the lowest rate, had 45 deaths per 100,000 - a difference of 170 per cent. Three authorities - South Essex, North West Surrey, and Mid Surrey - had death rates almost 50 per cent higher than average, it was claimed.

According to Labour's figures, the five district health authorities with the worst record are: South Essex (125 deaths per 100,000 population), North West Surrey (122), Mid Surrey (121), Doncaster (118), Worcester and District (117). Areas with the best records include South West Surrey, Isle of Wight , Bury and Rochdale, North Worcestershire and the Wirral.

Of the 112 authorities, 45 were on course to meet the Government's target of a 25-per- cent reduction and 13 were making progress. But 54 looked likely to miss the target.

Labour said its findings flew in the face of Government claims about breast cancer. It quoted from a Health of the Nation report which said there was "relatively little variation" in mortality around the England and Wales average.