Breast-cancer survival rates vary with race

2013-07-25T00:00:00Z Breast-cancer survival rates vary with raceTitania Kumeh Los Angeles Times Arizona Daily Star
July 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - A diagnosis of breast cancer is more likely to lead to early death for black women than for white women - a disparity that's mainly the result of having more health problems before cancer develops, new research shows.

Overall, 55.9 percent of the black women on Medicare who were told they had breast cancer were still alive five years later. That compared to 68.8 percent of white women who were the same age, lived in the same area and were diagnosed in the same year, according to a study published in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the more that white women had in common with black women, the smaller the discrepancy became. When the researchers compared the black breast cancer patients with white patients who had similar demographic characteristics as well as similar tumors, the survival gap of 12.9 percent shrank to 4.4 percent.

To the research team, this suggested that black women with breast cancer fared worse than whites because they were sicker to start with.

For example, they noted that 26 percent of the black patients already had diabetes when they were told they had breast cancer; among the group of white women matched for age, year of cancer diagnosis and area of residence, only 15.3 percent had diabetes.

The findings are based on Medicare data collected by the National Cancer Institute. Between 1991 and 2005, a total of 107,273 women who were at least 65 years old were found to have breast cancer, including 7,375 blacks and 99,898 whites.

By the numbers

55.9

Percentage of the black women on Medicare who were told they had breast cancer were still alive five years later

68.8

Percentage of the white women on Medicare who were told they had breast cancer were still alive five years later

26

Percentage of black patients who already had diabetes when they were told they had breast cancer

15.3

Percentage of white patients who already had diabetes when they were told they had breast cancer

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

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