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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 07:39 GMT
Breast cancer strikes most deprived
Deprivation is linked to aggressive cancer
Women from deprived backgrounds who develop breast cancer are more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease, research shows.

The conclusions are drawn from data gathered from 608 women treated for early breast cancer in Glasgow between October 1995 and March 2001.

We found a poorer outcome for women with breast cancer from deprived backgrounds

Catherine Sharp
Catherine Sharp, a senior house officer at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, who carried out the study, found that women from deprived backgrounds were significantly more likely to have higher grade three tumours.

She also identified a trend for them to have oestrogen-receptor (ER) negative tumours, which are not fed by the oestrogen hormone.

These are more difficult to treat and do not respond to anti-oestrogen drugs such as tamoxifen.

They also had cancer that spread to the lymph vessels.

Mystery cause

Miss Sharp said she did not know why these women had such aggressive tumours - those that grow very rapidly - but it could be due to lifestyle factors, although further research would need to be completed to establish any recurring patterns.

She said: "We found a poorer outcome for women with breast cancer from deprived backgrounds, which means they may die or have recurrence sooner.

"Treatment for affluent and deprived patients seems to be the same, from studies done in Glasgow, however, these women may have a poorer response to the treatments due to lifestyle-related issues."

These lifestyle issues could be a poor diet or the prevalence of smoking, Miss Sharp suggests.

Breast tumours are graded from one to three. Grade three tumours are more difficult to treat than grade one type.

Miss Sharp said: "The higher incidence of cancer which had spread to the lymph vessels in these deprived patients reflects the higher incidence of grade three tumours as they are more aggressive and therefore more likely to spread."

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.

Leaving it late

It is not clear why this is the case, but Miss Sharp said it could be that they go to their doctor later than those from affluent and intermediate backgrounds.

However, it could be that they tend to have tumours which grow more rapidly.

Of the 608 women studied, 135 were classified as affluent, 293 intermediate and 180 deprived.

The study found 11.1% of affluent women, 15.4% of intermediate and 21.7% of deprived women had grade three tumours.

It also discovered 11.3 of affluent women, 17.9% of intermediate and 19.3% of deprived women had ER negative tumours.

See also:

13 Jul 00 | NHS Performance 2000
Cancer rates reveal regional divide
17 Mar 00 | C-D
Breast Cancer
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