Low Income Women Lag in Breast Cancer Screening

The likelihood of getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening may depend on a woman’s income as well as her education level.

A new CDC study shows that low-income women and those without a high school diploma living in major metropolitan areas are much less likely to receive a mammogram as recommended for breast cancer screening.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S.

Annual mammograms are recommended as a part of breast cancer screening for all women over age 40. Women at high risk for breast cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease, are advised to start breast screening earlier.

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Income and Education Level Affect Testing Rates

In the study, researchers looked at the percentage of women who reported having mammograms in nationwide 2000 and 2002 surveys and compared it with area-based information, such as the percentage of women living under the poverty level or at a low education level, for 35 major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

The results showed that women with annual incomes under $15,000 were significantly less likely to have had a mammogram compared with more affluent women living in urban areas.

For example, 82.5 percent of women over 40 making $50, 000 or more reported having had a mammogram in the last two years. But that percentage dropped to 68.4 percent among women over 40 who had annual incomes less than $15,000.

Location didn’t appear to help matters for these women. The study showed that low-income women living in more affluent areas were less likely to undergo breast cancer screening compared with low-income women who lived in poorer areas.

In addition, women without a high school education were also less likely to have had a mammogram than women with more education. The CDC notes that more studies should be done to see how breast cancer screening is being offered to these populations.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 7, 2005; vol 59: pp 982-986. News release, CDC.