A new study has shown that people who live in rural areas are less likely to survive cancer than those who live in cities.

The global review, by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, examined 39 studies from developed countries and found that people living in rural locations were 5% less likely to survive cancer.

Around 20% of the global population lives rurally, and in 30 of the 39 studies there was a clear ‘survival disadvantage’ for rural people compared to their urban counterparts, the study authors said.

The retrospective observational studies, which covered a large variety of different cancer types and involved more than two million people, outlined a number of reasons that could contribute to this disparity.

For example, rural patients may delay in seeking help until their symptoms seem more serious that those living in cities, due to the nature of their work or family commitments. Transport options and the proximity of health centres are also said to be factors, due to the time parameters and price of travel in rural areas.

“A previous study showed the inequality faced by rural cancer dwellers in north-east Scotland and we wanted to see if this was replicated in other parts of the world,” commented lead investigator Professor Peter Murchie, a GP and primary care cancer expert from the University of Aberdeen.

“The task now is to analyse why this is the case and what can be done to close this inequality gap. In this paper we have considered some of the potential reasons but these must really be analysed in closer detail.”