Scientists today established a link between poverty and a rogue gene which could explain why women from poor backgrounds are less likely to survive breast cancer.

A study by University of Dundee researchers looked at the survival rates of the disease compared with a patient's socio-economic status. At the same time, they investigated occurrences of the p53 breast cancer mutation – a change which reduces the body's ability to suppress tumours.

The study, published this month in the British Journal of Cancer, found women in the lowest socio-economic groups were "significantly more likely" to have a relapse and die from breast cancer compared with those in more affluent categories. It is thought that lifestyle factors associated with poverty, including smoking, drinking and an unhealthy diet, could make the p53 mutation more likely.

Doctor Lee Baker, of the Department of Surgery at the University of Dundee, said, "Deprivation alone doesn't cause breast cancer, but can affect prognosis when p53 is damaged as a result of lifestyle choices commonly associated with deprivation."