Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Care
White Women Living Longer; Survival Rates Among Blacks Unchanged
June 5, 2007 (Chicago) -- The racial disparity in the treatment of women
with breast cancer appears to be worsening, researchers report.
A two-decade study shows that while white women with advanced breast cancer
are living longer than ever, survival rates among black women haven’t
The result: a widening gap between the races, says researcher Sharon
Giordano, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of breast medical oncology at the
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
In 2007, about 180,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,
up to 10% of whom already have metastatic breast cancer that has spread to
other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis.
In general, these women can expect to live only 18 to 24 months, she
Giordano says a previous study at M.D. Anderson showed that survival rates
among women with metastatic breast cancer have improved over the past decade.
The new study aimed to look more closely at trends and factors affecting
survival in a larger group of women. The study was presented at the annual
meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Racial Gap in Breast Care Widens
The study included 15,438 women who were newly diagnosed with advanced
breast cancer between 1988 and 2003. Information about their age, race, and
other factors was obtained from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance,
Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database.
To look at trends in survival over time, the women were divided into three
groups based on when they were diagnosed: 1988 to 1993, 1994 to 1998, and 1999
to 2003. Overall, the chance of surviving for at least one year increased from
62.9% in the first time period to 64.4% in the second time period and 66.6% in
the third period, the analysis showed.
When looked at by race, however, the picture changed. In the 1988 to 1993
time period, 63.2% of white women and 60.4% of black women survived one year.
In the second time period, one-year survival rates were 64.9% and 58.1%,
respectively. In the last time period, 67.6% and 58.8% of white and black women
survived one year, respectively.
“The absolute difference in one-year survival rates between black and white
women increased across the three time periods, from a 2.8% to a 6.8% to an 8.8%
difference,” Giordano says.
Health Insurance, Distrust May Play Role
Over the study period, the average time a woman lived from diagnosis also
rose, from 20 to 21 to 25 months.
For white women, survival times improved from 20 months to 27 months over
time. But among black women, survival times remained basically flat at 16 to 17