In a study of more than 250,000 women living in 35 metropolitan areas in the United States, low income was associated with a decreased likelihood of being screened for breast cancer.
Also, among women with low incomes, those living in more affluent areas are less likely to undergo breast cancer screening than their counterparts living in less affluent areas. The reasons for this, the investigators say, are unclear and require further study.
The findings, which appear in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are based on survey of 251,269 women who were contacted in 2000 and 2002. In addition, area-based data from the 2000 U.S. Census was included in the analysis.
Women with an annual household income of less than $15,000 were less likely to have undergone a mammogram than women with higher incomes. The percentage of women, 40 years of age or older, who reported a mammogram in the previous 2 years ranged from 68 percent for those with an income below $15,000 to 82 percent for those with an income of at least $50,000.
Similarly, women lacking a high school education were less likely to be screened than their peers with more education. Unmarried women and those lacking health insurance also had lower screening rates.
“Studies are needed to determine how to increase the percentage of women having mammograms among women in low-income and low education populations,” Dr. S. S. Coughlin and colleagues, from the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, note.
As to why living in more affluent areas seemed to adversely affect screening rates among women with low incomes, the authors suggest that “the areas in which persons live might affect screening use because of varying living costs, education and employment opportunities, access to healthcare, and other factors.”