Background: Low cancer awareness may contribute to delayed diagnosis and poor cancer survival. We aimed to quantify socio-demographic differences in cancer symptom awareness and barriers to symptomatic presentation in the English population.
Methods: Using a uniquely large data set (n=49 270), we examined the association of cancer symptom awareness and barriers to presentation with age, gender, marital status and socio-economic position (SEP), using logistic regression models to control for confounders.
Results: The youngest and oldest, the single and participants with the lowest SEP recognised the fewest cancer symptoms, and reported most barriers to presentation. Recognition of nine common cancer symptoms was significantly lower, and embarrassment, fear and difficulties in arranging transport to the doctor's surgery were significantly more common in participants living in the most deprived areas than in the most affluent areas. Women were significantly more likely than men to both recognise common cancer symptoms and to report barriers. Women were much more likely compared with men to report that fear would put them off from going to the doctor.
Conclusions: Large and robust socio-demographic differences in recognition of some cancer symptoms, and perception of some barriers to presentation, highlight the need for targeted campaigns to encourage early presentation and improve cancer outcomes.