Early breast cancer tends to be more aggressive in women from deprived backgrounds

Women from deprived backgrounds who develop early breast cancer tend to have tumours that are more likely to be aggressive and to spread, according to data analysed at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, UK, and reported at the 3rd European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona on Thursday 21 March.

Miss Catherine Sharp, a Senior House Officer at the hospital, examined data from 608 women who had been treated in five Glasgow hospitals over a five and a half-year period between October 1995 and March 2001. The women were identified and separated into three groups: affluent, intermediate and deprived.

She found that patients from deprived backgrounds were significantly more likely to have higher grade tumours (grade three); she identified a trend for them to have oestrogen-receptor negative tumours (which can be more difficult to treat), and more patients in the deprived group had cancer that had spread to the lymph vessels. Miss Sharp said: All these factors may explain why patients from deprived areas have a poorer outcome.

She continued: 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. I cannot really say why the deprived patients seem to have a higher incidence of grade three, ER negative tumours in this study, or whether these factors are enough to explain their poorer outcome in the long run. Other illnesses, poor diet, smoking and environmental factors may also play a role in determining how well a woman responds to treatment.


Contact: Emma Mason
Federation of European Cancer Societies

Page: 1

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