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Social class seems to be an important factor in a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer, a study suggests.
Although long-term survival continues to rise across all social backgrounds, the gap between rich and poor still persists.
One year after diagnosis, survival rates were lower for breast cancer patients from deprived backgrounds compared with those for affluent women. And five years after diagnosis the “deprivation gap” had doubled.
The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, looked at more than 380,000 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in England and Wales between 1986 and 1999.
Even after adjusting for other causes of death, the five-year survival of women with breast cancer who lived in the most affluent areas was about 6% higher than for women who lived in deprived areas.
Professor Michel Coleman – a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist – said one reason why the gap may widen over time is due to lower take-up of radiotherapy among women from deprived backgrounds. This leads to a higher risk of late recurrence of breast cancer.
Problems accessing chemotherapy or hormone therapy and differences in accessing the life-prolonging drug, tamoxifen, may also have been a contributory factor for women diagnosed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said.
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