A new study by Britain's National Health Service reveals that women from minority ethnic groups are reluctant to go for breast cancer screening

Pakistani and South Asian women living in Scotland are at risk of late diagnosis of breast cancer because they do not go for screening, a new research has found.

The study, done by the experts at the University of Edinburgh, has shown that compared with white Scots and other white and ethnic groups, Pakistani women are most likely not to take-up a first invitation to a breast screening clinic. This is the first study of its kind to analyse Scottish data on breast screening by ethnic group.

Researchers looked at almost 140,000 records from 2002 to 2008 where women aged 50 and over were invited by the National Health Services to attend a breast screening clinic for the first time. The study found that the proportion of non-attendance was 41.9 per cent for Pakistani women, 37.4 per cent for African women and 32.7 per cent for Indian women, compared with 23.1 for white Scots. For other South Asian females – including Bangladeshis – the proportion not attending was 35 per cent. It was 32 per cent for those of mixed background.

In Scotland, women aged 50 and over have been invited to breast cancer screening every three years, since 1988.

According to the researchers the findings cause concern because previous research shows that women who attend breast screening at first invitation are more likely to attend subsequent tests..

Also, data from England has found that the traditionally low rates of breast cancer among South Asian groups are catching up with those of the white British population.

Researchers found that besides ethnicity, deprivation, education, having a long-term illness and living in a rural area were other factors associated with risk of non-attendance at a first screening appointment.

Reasons for the low uptake among minority ethnic groups are thought to include lack of awareness, modesty, perceptions of the health service and language difficulties.

Dr. Narinder Bansal, research fellow at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences said, “More work needs to be carried out to understand and address why there are ethnic differences in the uptake of breast cancer screening. Our study highlights the need to ensure that cultural sensitivities are considered in the provision of health services.”

The study has been published in the British Journal of Cancer.