DEATH rates from breast cancer in Scotland are at their lowest level in more than 100 years.

Cancer experts from Glasgow said better treatments, increased awareness and the NHS breast screening ­programme had led to major improvements in survival rates.

However, the incidence of the disease is continuing to rise and a woman's chances of survival after five years can still depend on which part of Glasgow she is from.

Professor Peter Boyle, of Strathclyde University, cited a study which showed there was a 10 percent difference in five-year survival between affluent and deprived areas.

However, an hour of exercise a day - which can be be accumulative - can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 12%.

The figures will be ­released today at the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference in Glasgow.

Professor Boyle, of the University's of ­Institute of Global Public Health, said more work needs to be done to understand the causes of breast cancer.

He said: "The huge strides in Scotland mean just about every woman is getting the most appropriate treatment for her disease.

"More and more ­women are aware of their breasts and the problems and are talking about it.

"They didn't talk about it 50 years ago.

"But even here in Scotland there are ­considerable differences due to lifestyle and social class.

"In Glasgow, two women with breast cancer of the same age, presenting for the same treatment at the same time, and with the same tumour characteristic, may have a 10 point percentage difference in five-year ­survival simply because one comes from an ­affluent area of the city and the other from a ­deprived area.

"This is irrespective of whether or not they are treated by breast cancer specialists."

"We've never found one simple answer for it. I'd love that gap to close.

"The big thing which needs addressed is the incidence, which is still rising. That is an area that needs a lot of research."

Professor Boyle said a priority was also to replicate the positive strides in developing countries.

In countries such as Kenya and Uganda almost all women with breast cancer presented at a late stage.

He said: "While there is plenty of good news to report, at least in the developed world, what is particularly alarming is that there are still so many preventable deaths due to the combination of a lack of awareness and a lack of resources."