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Combination of diabetes and low socioeconomic status linked to poor breast cancer screening rates

April 11, 2014

New research shows that women with diabetes may be less likely to be screened for breast cancer, especially if they have low socioeconomic status.

Researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Women’s College Hospital found that women with diabetes were 14 per cent less likely to be screened for breast cancer with a recommended mammogram, compared to women without diabetes. When the women were divided into five socioeconomic groups, women with diabetes had lower screening rates than other women in each of the groups. However, the screening rate was lowest among women with diabetes from the lowest socioeconomic group.

These results are particularly important because earlier studies have shown an increased incidence of post-menopausal breast cancer in women with diabetes.

Previous studies had also found that low socioeconomic status and diabetes were each linked individually to lower breast cancer screening rates. Diabetes has also been linked to low socioeconomic status. That’s why researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Women’s College Hospital looked at whether there was any association between socioeconomic status and breast cancer screening rates in women with diabetes.

The researchers looked at breast cancer screening rates in Ontario from 1999 to 2010 in women ages 50 to 69 – the age for which mammography screening is recommended. The study included 188,759 women who had diabetes, and 315,529 women who did not have diabetes. The women’s socioeconomic status was based on income levels in the neighbourhood where they lived.

The results showed that women with diabetes were 14 per cent less likely to have a mammogram than women without diabetes.

Screening rates declined with socioeconomic status in each of the five socioeconomic groups, for women with diabetes and women without diabetes. However, in every socioeconomic group, the women with diabetes had lower screening rates than those without diabetes.

Screening rates were lowest in women with diabetes from the lowest socioeconomic group: only 56 per cent of these women had a mammogram, compared to 66 per cent of women with diabetes who were in the highest socioeconomic group. For women who did not have diabetes, the screening rates were 59 per cent in the lowest socioeconomic group and 72 per cent in the highest group.

These results show that women with diabetes are at risk for poor breast cancer screening, and that women with diabetes who have low socioeconomic status are particularly vulnerable.

The study was published in the journal Diabetic Medicine on April 11, 2014.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital