As the COVID-19 pandemic comes under control, cancer is re-emerging as Britain’s leading health priority

Improving cancer prevention, detection, and treatment is re-emerging as Britain’s leading health priority as the COVID-19 pandemic comes under control, according to a report by University College London (UCL) academics.

The report presents the results of the second UCL School of Pharmacy Cancer Policy Project survey on British public attitudes towards cancer research and treatment. In May 2021, 2096 UK adults were surveyed by the research consultancy Yonder on behalf of the UCL academics for a study sample that was weighted to be representative of the overall population.

The report reveals high public demand for innovative diagnostic technologies, such as single blood tests for multiple forms of cancer and access to optimally effective cancer treatments.

Half (50%) of British adults regard cancer as the noninfectious disease for which they most want better treatment for themselves and their families; finding more effective cancer treatments was the top priority among all age groups. This is partly due to the fact that 40% of adults say that their lives have been significantly changed because they or individuals important to them have had cancer.

There is strong public support among those surveyed for preventing cancers through interventions like further reducing/eliminating tobacco smoking by 2030 and increasing rates of early diagnosis. Three-quarters (75%) of the British electorate indicate that they will want to be tested every 2 years when single blood tests for circulating cancer DNA strands become available.

About one-quarter of UK adults say they are hesitant about taking part in cancer testing. Such individuals are also more likely than expected to be hesitant about accepting NHS-recommended vaccines, and to say that climate change is not a threat to humanity.

The majority (86%) think that people aged over 70 years have as much right to effective cancer treatments as anyone else.

In relation to cancer care, just over one-third (36%) of British adults remain confident that NHS cancer care is world class, the same proportion as in 2019. An additional 40% believe that it is likely to be as good as cancer care anywhere else in the world once cancer has been diagnosed.

The researchers also estimate that, despite the efforts of the NHS to maintain cancer services in 2020–21, in the region of 10,000 people will die of cancer substantially earlier than would have been the case had COVID-19 not impacted the UK.

Report co-author Professor David Taylor, UCL School of Pharmacy, said: ‘Since early 2020, most people have been primarily focused on the threat of COVID-19. But as the pandemic becomes better controlled by vaccines, medicines, and other public health measures, cancer is re-emerging as the UK public’s top health priority. The immediate challenge is to reduce NHS waiting lists.’

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Lead image: Giovanni Cancemi/

Image 1: Giovanni Cancemi/