Scottish scientists have discovered a link between deprivation and a gene involved in breast cancer.
The finding, which is published in the British Journal of Cancer, may help to explain why women from deprived backgrounds are less likely to survive breast cancer.
Researchers at the University of Dundee found that women from poorer backgrounds were more likely to have a faulty p53 gene, increasing their chances of relapse and death from the disease.
Dr Lee Baker, from the university’s department of surgery and molecular oncology, revealed that p53 mutations can come about in two ways – as a result of genetic predisposition and because of a poor lifestyle.
‘Smoking, drinking, poor diet etc can lead to p53 mutations and are more common in women from lower socio-economic groups, who are also more likely to experience a recurrence of the disease and to die as a result of breast cancer,’ he revealed.
‘This research makes a strong link between p53 and deprivation, and then between p53 mutation and recurrence and death.’
The scientist claimed that by lifting people out of deprivation, it may be possible to reduce their chances of having problems with their p53 gene and to ultimately reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, commented that the reasons for the connection between deprivation and breast cancer survival are not yet known.
However, she noted that ‘a range of lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors are all likely to play a part’.