Income inequality in uptake of voluntary versus organised breast cancer screening: evidence from the British Household Panel Survey

Patricia Carney, Ciaran O'Neill

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BACKGROUND: This paper measures income-related inequality in uptake of breast cancer screening among women before and after a policy change to extend the screening programme to women aged 65 to 70. Prior to programme expansion women aged 50 to 64 were invited for screening under the national cancer screening programme in England and Wales whereas women in the 65 to 70 age cohort could elect to be screened by personally organising a screen. This will give a deeper insight into the nature of inequality in screening and the impact of policies aimed at widening the access related to age on inequality of uptake.

METHODS: Taking advantage of this natural experiment, inequality is quantified across the different age cohorts and time periods with the use of concentration indices (CI). Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, information on screening attendance, equivalised household income and age was taken for the three years prior to the programme expansion and the three years immediately following the policy change.

RESULTS: Results show that following the expansion, inequality significantly reduced for the 50-64 age group, prior to the expansion there was a pro-rich inequality in screening uptake. There is also evidence of a reduction in income inequality in screening uptake among those aged 65 to 70 and an increase in the number of women attending screening from this older age cohort.

CONCLUSIONS: This indicates that an organised breast screening programme is likely to reduce income related inequality over a screening programme where women must organise their own screen. This is important when breast screening is one of the main methods used to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage which improves outcomes for women and reduces treatment costs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number252
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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