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Poverty 'linked to cancer deaths'

Source BBC News@

Breast screeningScientists looked at what stage of the cancer the tumours were being diagnosed

Hundreds of women from the poorest backgrounds in England are dying needlessly of breast cancer, according to researchers.

Data presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference showed poverty was linked to 450 breast cancer deaths a year.

Catching the tumour late is thought to be a major explanation for the deaths.

The charity Cancer Research UK said women needed to go to their GP promptly.

There is a strong link between wealth and health. Cancer, heart attacks, stroke, lung disease and liver disease are all more likely in areas of social deprivation.

Stage of diagnosis

Scientists from Cambridge and Leicester universities looked at data from 20,000 patients who had breast cancer diagnosed between 2006 and 2010.

They looked at what stage of the cancer the tumours were being diagnosed. The later the diagnosis, the more advanced the tumour and the harder it is to treat.

Women from the most affluent areas were catching their tumours earlier.

The study showed that if women from more socially deprived backgrounds could match that level of diagnosis it would save 450 lives a year in England.

One of the researchers, Dr Gary Abel, of the University of Cambridge, said: "These avoidable deaths are not due to differences in the response to treatment, or the type of breast cancer.

'Greater reluctance'

"Rather these are deaths that might be avoided if cancer was caught as early in women from deprived backgrounds as those from more affluent backgrounds.

"The reason for this inequality may be a combination of these women being less aware of breast cancer symptoms and a greater reluctance to see their GP."

Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Other research shows that women from deprived backgrounds are more likely to feel embarrassed or worried about going to their GP, but it's important for women to take that step as going to the GP promptly could make all the difference.

"All women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel because we know that early diagnosis is one of the most important factors in whether breast cancer treatment is effective."

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