Poorer women 'have worst breast cancer'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Women from deprived backgrounds who develop breast cancer are more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease, research indicated yesterday.

Women from deprived backgrounds who develop breast cancer are more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease, research indicated yesterday.

The conclusions were drawn from data gathered from 608 patients treated for early breast cancer in Glasgow between October 1995 and March 2001. Scotland has the worst record in Europe for survival from the disease in its various forms.

Catherine Sharp, a senior house officer at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, who carried out the study, found that poorer women were significantly more likely to have grade-three tumours, the toughest to treat. She also identified a trend for them to have a form of tumour known as oestrogen-receptor negative, which is not fed by the oestrogen hormone and does not respond to anti-oestrogen drugs.

Lifestyle factors – poor diet and a prevalence of smoking – were cited as possible reasons for the aggressive tumours, though further research is needed to establish any recurring patterns.

"Treatment for affluent and deprived patients seems to be the same; however, these women may have a poorer response to the treatments due to lifestyle-related issues," said Dr Sharp.

Wider studies of patients at all stages of breast cancer show women from deprived backgrounds usually have larger tumours when they first present themselves to their GP. It is not clear why this is the case, but Dr Sharp said it could be that they go to their doctor later and that they tend to have tumours that grow more rapidly.

Of the 608 women studied, 135 were classified as affluent, 293 intermediate and 180 deprived. The study found 11.1 per cent of affluent women, 15.4 per cent of intermediate and 21.7 per cent of deprived women had grade-three tumours.

Last year's Regional Trends survey by the Office of National Statistics showed those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland to be two and a half times more likely than the wealthiest to die from coronary heart disease.

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