Cancer is a ‘deemed’ disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that there is no need for a Claimant to demonstrate an impairment with a substantial and long-term adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities to be protected by legislation.

The Act states that “cancer, HIV infection and multiple sclerosis are each a disability”.

But what is ‘cancer’ for the purposes of the Act  – does it include a pre-cancerous lesion – cells which are described as ‘pre-cancerous’ because they are non-invasive?

In Lofty v Hamis, the Claimant, who was employed as a café assistant, had been diagnosed with lentigo maligna, an early form of skin cancer.

She had successful surgical treatment to remove cancer cells before they had the opportunity to spread. The EAT upheld the Claimant’s appeal from a tribunal decision that the Claimant did not have cancer. The tribunal had found that because the Claimant was successfully treated for a ‘pre-cancerous condition’, she had never had cancer.

On appeal, the EAT found the claimant was disabled, as her condition fell within the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. The EAT highlighted that there is no justification for the introduction of distinctions between different cancers, or to disregard pre-cancerous conditions because they have not yet reached a particular stage.

You can read more about disability discrimination rights here. 

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