Women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK display marked differences in survival between categories defined by socio-economic deprivation. Timeliness of diagnosis is one of the possible explanations for these patterns. Women whose cancer is screen-detected are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage. We examined deprivation and screening-specific survival in order to evaluate the role of early diagnosis upon deprivation-specific survival differences in the West Midlands (UK) and New South Wales (Australia). We estimated net survival for women aged 50–65 years at diagnosis and whom had been continuously eligible for screening from the age of 50. Records for 5,628 women in West Midlands (98.5% of those eligible, mean age at diagnosis 53.7 years) and 6,396 women in New South Wales (99.9% of those eligible, mean age at diagnosis 53.8 years). In New South Wales, survival was similar amongst affluent and deprived women, regardless of whether their cancer was screen-detected or not. In the West Midlands, there were large and persistent differences in survival between affluent and deprived women. Deprivation differences were similar between the screen-detected and non-screen detected groups. These differences are unlikely to be solely explained by artefact, or by patient or tumour factors. Further investigations into the timeliness and appropriateness of the treatments received by women with breast cancer across the social spectrum in the UK are warranted.What's new?
In the UK, affluent women are known to have higher breast cancer survival than deprived women, regardless of access to screening. In this study, the authors examined net survival by socioeconomic status in the West Midlands (UK) and New South Wales (Australia). They found a persistent ‘deprivation gap’ in survival in the former, but not in the latter region. Further investigation into the treatment and follow-up received by women with breast cancer across the social spectrum in the UK is warranted.