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Breast Cancer Deaths Decline in U.S. at Slower Pace for Low-Income Women

The highest breast cancer death rates have shifted from affluent women to the poor, as the overall decline in mortality has been slower among those with less access to screening and treatment, according to a report.

About half of poor women aged 40 and older had a mammogram within the past two years, compared with 73 percent of women who were on a more stable financial footing, according to a report by the American Cancer Society.

The number of American women diagnosed each year with breast cancer is holding steady, while deaths from the disease continue a decline started in 1990, the report said. However, poor women aren’t seeing the same improvement in survival as wealthier women, the report found. While death rates were highest among affluent women until the early 1990s, the pattern has shifted. By 2003 to 2007, women living in poor areas had a 7 percent higher risk of breast cancer death, the report said.

“In general, progress in reducing breast cancer death rates is being seen,” said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the cancer society, in a statement. “However, not all women have benefitted equally. Poor women are now at a greater risk for breast cancer death because of less access to screening and better treatments. This continued disparity is impeding real progress against breast cancer.”

An estimated 230,480 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, accounting for one in every three tumors detected, the annual Breast Cancer Statistics report found. About 39,520 women will die from the disease, with mortality rates falling most quickly for women under age 50.

Cortez is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Minneapolis.

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