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Wealth found to be key factor in breast cancer survival

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There is a worrying gap in breast cancer survival rates between rich and poor women, according to figures published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Despite an overall rise in survival, the study of 380,000 women in England and Wales illustrated that following diagnosis five-year survival rates for those living in the most affluent areas were about 6% higher than for those in deprived areas.

The study, which ran from 1986 to 1999, found that one year after diagnosis there was a deprivation gap in survival and that gap doubled after five-years.

Researchers discovered that a deprivation gap exists for most cancers, but it did not widen between one year survival and five year survival, with breast cancer being the notable exception.

Lead author Professor Michel Coleman, an epidemiologist with the charity Cancer Research UK, said he believed the gap in breast cancer survival could be attributed to ‘a lower take-up of radiotherapy and problems with access to chemotherapy or hormone therapy’.

He also suggested that access to the life-prolonging drug, tamoxifen, may have contributed to the imbalance in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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