People from deprived communities may be more likely to need advanced bowel cancer treatment because it seems they are more reluctant to take part in screening, a new study has found.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK found that affluent people in London are 50 per cent more likely to return their home testing kits for bowel cancer, which are sent to eligible people every two years.
Whereas half of people in the wealthiest areas of the city take part in the screening programme, just one in three recipients in the most deprived areas return their kits.
The findings are cause for concern because the earlier the disease is detected, the sooner bowel cancer treatment can be administered and the greater the chance of survival.
Jane Wardle, lead author of the study report in the British Journal of Cancer, described the trend as "worrying".
She warned: "There's a real danger that bowel cancer could increasingly become a disease of lower social class if these figures hold true across the UK.
"Screening helps to spot early signs of bowel cancer ... so it's important that everyone who receives a testing kit takes part."
On average, 36,700 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK and it is hoped that the new screening programme will improve survival rates.