Breast Cancer More Deadly in Certain Women

Breast cancer survival lower in black women compared to white women

April 6, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) More black women die from breast cancer than white women each year. They also tend to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease. And clinicians blamed the higher death rates on these less treatable types of breast cancer.

Black women were two times more likely than white women to die from breast cancer, according to a new study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2013.

This finding held true regardless of the type of breast cancer.

"Get regular breast cancer screenings."

Candyce Kroenke, MPH, ScD, research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, and colleagues looked at the interplay between race and breast cancer survival among 1,688 breast cancer survivors

“The results seem to indicate that, although African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed with less treatable subtypes of breast cancer compared with white women, it is not the only reason they have worse breast cancer mortality,” Dr. Kroenke said.

The women were enrolled in Life After Cancer Epidemiology and Pathways study. They had been treated for the four major types of breast cancer: luminal A and B (most common and treatable), triple-negative (very difficult to treat) and HER2-positive (aggressive).

After about six and a half years of follow-up, 268 women had died of breast cancer, with black women twice as likely to die as white women.

The study found that compared to white women, black women were:

  • Less likely to be diagnosed with the more treatable luminal breast cancers.
  • 2.3 times more likely to die from luminal A breast cancer.
  • 2.6 times more likely not to survive luminal B subtype.
  • 2.4 times more likely to die of HER2-positive breast cancer.
  • 1.3 times more like to succumb to triple-negative breast cancer.

The study also found that Asian women were less likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and somewhat more likely to have HER2-positive breast cancer than were women of other races.  

"It has been established that women over 75 and black women have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer," breast cancer specialist, Christopher O. Ruud, MD of the Austin Cancer Centers, told dailyRx News.

"The assumption is that this was due to more triple negative cancer. This study suggests the problem is not just type of cancer."

All research is considered preliminary before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.