Breast cancer recurrence higher in African-American women

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A 28-year retrospective study conducted at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, N.J., found that African-American women have a higher chance of recurrent breast cancer after treatment than their Caucasian counterparts. These findings were presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Los Angeles.

An analysis, conducted from 1975-2003, tracked the outcomes for 2,416 women with early-stage breast cancer who had lumpectomy surgery followed by radiation therapy. A total of 207 African-American women, 2,164 Caucasian, and 45 women from other races participated in the study.

For patients with early-stage breast cancer, the current standard of treatment involves a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy to the breast over a five- to six-and-a-half-week period to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Findings showed that 10 years after treatment with lumpectomy and radiation, 17 percent of African-American women had their breast cancer recur compared with 13 percent of the Caucasian patients. The study also found that early-stage African-American breast cancer patients who are diagnosed with the disease at a younger age have a higher disease stage at diagnosis and more aggressive tumor markers than Caucasian women who undergo similar treatment.

“This study confirms the aggressive nature of breast cancer in African-American women and emphasizes how important it is for all African-American women to see their healthcare providers regularly and to go for screening mammograms to try to catch any abnormalities early,” said Meena Moran, MD, a radiation oncologist at Yale and lead author of the study. “This study also points out the need for further research in evaluating the underlying molecular, genetic and biological differences in breast cancers in African-American women so that we can develop better strategies for helping these women beat their cancer.”