Background: Over 14% of breast cancers diagnosed in the United States annually are ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS). There are no published population-based reports of the likelihood of breast cancer death among US women with DCIS.
Methods: We used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program to determine the likelihood of breast cancer death at 5 and 10 years among US women aged 40 and older diagnosed with DCIS from 1978 to 1983 (before screening mammography was common; n = 1525) and from 1984 to 1989 (when screening mammography became common; n = 5547). We also calculated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) to compare observed deaths from breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all causes combined among women with DCIS with deaths expected based on general population mortality rates.
Results: Among women diagnosed with DCIS from 1978 to 1983, 1.5% died of breast cancer within 5 years and 3.4% within 10 years. Among women diagnosed from 1984 to 1989, 0.7% died of breast cancer within 5 years and 1.9% within 10 years. Relative to the general population, risk of breast cancer death was greater for women diagnosed from 1978 to 1983 (SMR, 3.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.5-4.5) than for women diagnosed from 1984 to 1989 (10-year SMR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.5-2.3). Women diagnosed from 1984 to 1989 were significantly less likely than women in the general population to have died of cardiovascular diseases (10-year SMR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.5-0.7) or of all causes combined (SMR, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.7-0.8).
Conclusions: Among women diagnosed with DCIS, risk of death from breast cancer was low, at least within the 10 years following diagnosis. This may reflect the effectiveness of treatment for DCIS, the "benign" nature of DCIS, or both. At 10 years, women diagnosed from 1984 to 1989 were less likely than women diagnosed from 1978 to 1983 to have died of breast cancer, and their risk of dying of all causes combined was lower than that in the general population.