Missing a breast scan may have impact on tumour size

WOMEN who miss a round of breast screening are more likely to need reassessment and have higher rates of cancer diagnosis, a study has found.

The study, presented at the second All-Ireland Conference on Population-based Cancer research in Dublin yesterday, underlines the importance of attending all appointments for screening.

The study looked at those who regularly attended at BreastCheck screenings and those who skipped one or several rounds before returning to the screening programme.

It found that women who skipped rounds tended to have a higher true positive rate and larger tumours.

One of the study’s authors, Dr Patricia Fitzpatrick, an epidemiologist with BreastCheck, said they compared regular attenders and previous non-attenders between the programme start in 2000 and December 2009.

“The main message really is in a woman’s interest to attend routinely so if there is a tumour there it can be picked up at the very earliest possibility and she can have the best outcome. That’s what we are looking to achieve,” she said.

Dr Fitzpatrick said a further research programme was being planned to explore the issue in more detail to see if more could be done to improve attendance and to make it easier for women to attend regularly.

Invasive cancer size was greater in women who missed appointments in all age groups, and significantly so in those aged 55 to 59.

Another study presented by Dr Marie Cantwell from Queen’s University Belfast found that children in larger households and those who were breastfed had a reduced risk to malignant melanoma, one of the most common cancers in Ireland, with the number of cases increasing every year.

Increasing household density was protective as babies born into houses with one or more persons per room had a 50% less risk of malignant melanoma compared with babies born into houses with less than one person per room.

Dr Cantwell said household density and breast-feeding was likely to have reduced the melanoma risk due to earlier exposure to infectious agents or increased immunity.

The doctor was also involved in another study that found a link between dietary fat and meat intake and oesophageal cancer.

The all-Ireland study looked at 220 patients with Barrett’s oesophagus (chronic acid exposure) and 224 with oesophageal adenocarcinoma (gastric cancer).

“We found that people with the highest fat intake have a two-fold increase of having Barrett’s oesophagus and had more than a five-fold risk of having oesophageal cancer,” she said.


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