Breast cancer survival: association with socio-economic status and social support for women in England and Wales

Andy Sloggett, Emily Grundy and Harriet Young, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

[Project number 30003]

We would like to investigate the influence of socio-economic status and social support on female breast cancer survival, using the Longitudinal Study.

There is clear evidence of a survival gradient by socio-economic status for breast cancer survival; women with higher socio-economic status survive longer (eg Schrijvers at al, 1995 – British Journal of Cancer 72: 738-743). However, a study of cancer survival using the Longitudinal Study (Kogevinas, 1990 – Series LS no.5) found that those with higher socio-economic status had no survival advantage for breast cancer, along with two other cancers out of fifteen studied for women. We are interested in determining whether this pattern is still present for more recent data in the LS.

In the literature there are mixed reports on the influence of social support on breast cancer survival, Kogevinas (1990) found that married women had better survival for all cancers than single, widowed and divorced women. Another study (Waxler et al. 1991 – Soc Sci Med 33:177-183) suggests that there is little evidence that familial relations are important in survival, and relationships outside the home are more important. We would like to examine the association of marital status and breast cancer survival in the context of the LS.

The aim of this study is to examine, at a national level, how breast cancer survival (1981-1999) is influenced by socio-economic status and social support for women aged 45 plus in England and Wales.

Specific objectives:

  • Determine differences in survival for breast cancer by socio-economic status using individual level proxies (housing tenure, car access), parity, deprivation scale.
  • Examine differences in breast cancer survival by social support. Variables used for social support will be marital status and household size and composition.
  • Determine whether there is any interaction between socio-economic status and social support for breast cancer survival.

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