Breast cancer incidence trends in deprived and affluent Scottish women

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Breast cancer is commoner in the affluent and breast cancer rates in many countries are rising; it remains unclear whether this incidence rise is consistent across the different socio-economic groups. The rising incidence of breast cancer may be related to changes in population risk factor profiles. This study aimed to determine breast cancer incidence trends in women of different socio-economic categories and whether these trends were related to breast cancer risk factor trends.


Data on breast cancer incidence rates by deprivation quintile in Scotland 1991-2000 were analysed using linear regression. Data on first births at late maternal age, BMI trends (based on the Scottish Health Surveys) and breast screening uptake trends in the different categories were also analysed and their relation to breast cancer incidence trends explored.

Population and setting

Breast cancer incidence data was based on all women in Scotland. BMI data was based on representative cross-sectional survey data from the Scottish Health Surveys-women in the 1995, 1998 and 2003 surveys were 16-64, 16-74 and aged 16 and over, respectively. First birth data was based on all women aged 35-39 in Scotland. Breast screening uptake data was studied in women of screening age, that is, aged 50-64.


Breast cancer incidence rates in Scottish women are rising in parallel across all socio-economic categories and the incidence gap between deprived and affluent still remains. Since the late 1980s, numbers of first birth in Scottish women aged 35-39 have risen dramatically, especially in the affluent, but numbers were stable before this. The prevalence of obesity and mean BMI has increased over time in all socio-economic classes but BMI continues to be higher in the deprived. Uptake of screening invitations has increased in all socio-economic groups.


Breast cancer is rising in women of all socio-economic status in Scotland and the deprived-affluent gap remains. Trends in late age at first pregnancy, prevalence of obesity and screening uptake do not fully explain the observed trends.

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