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Breast Cancer Survival Rates

 There are racial differences in breast cancer survival rates even after factors like education and socioeconomic status are taken into consideration.

New research presented at the annual cancer prevention conference of the American Association for Cancer  esearch and compiled by research author Shariff Marco and colleagues in San Diego, shows that there are racial differences in breast cancer survival rates even after factors like education, neighborhood and socioeconomic status are taken into consideration. Of course, some of those types of factors do have an effect on survival rates. This is exemplified by the impact of increasing neighborhood socioeconomic status that is associated with better survival rates for cancer, but there are still racial differences in the survival rates that remain after adjusting for those factors.

Studies on breast cancer in the past have shown that the worst breast cancer survival rates apply to black women, with white women coming in right behind them with the next highest mortality rates. Hispanic and Asian women were found to have the lowest mortality rates. Although researchers have debated as to what causes these differences, the two main external factors have always been thought to be socioeconomic status and education. Shariff Marco and her colleagues wanted to cut through the external factors and see what racial differences would remain after adjusting for those factors. In order to compile her study, the team looked at data on 4,405 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1995 and 2008. The women in the study were all from the San Francisco Bay area and the group was composed of 1,068 whites, 1,670 Hispanics, 993 blacks and 674 Asian Americans.

Like prior studies, the researchers found that looking at the unadjusted data showed that the breast cancer survival rates were the worst for blacks and the best for Hispanics and Asians when compared to whites. However, when the data was adjusted for cancer treatment and lifestyle factors, the survival rates for black women improved up to par with the white women. When the data for the Hispanic and Asian women was adjusted, their survival rates were found to be better than those of both black and white women. The issue of neighborhood socioeconomic status also came back into play as black women had worse survival rates regardless of their education levels, if they lived in poorer neighborhoods.

Asian and Hispanic women living in wealthier neighborhoods, regardless of education levels, had better survival rates than well-educated whites living in wealthier areas, leading the researchers to believe that neighborhood characteristics might be more important than educational backgrounds. It was also shown that even when treatment resources existed, many were underused and only parts of each racial group had equal access to care. The takeaway from the research appears to be that all women in the U.S. need to be more aware of the resources that are available to them for breast cancer treatment and the survival rates for each racial group could be improved if breast cancer patients would just take advantage of the support groups and other patient programs that are available to help them get the care they need.

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