Racial disparities in breast carcinoma survival rates: seperating factors that affect diagnosis from factors that affect treatment

Cancer. 2003 Jun 1;97(11):2853-60. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11411.


Background: Black females have lower breast carcinoma survival rates compared with white females. One possible reason is that black females have more advanced-stage breast disease. Another factor may be racial differences in the utilization of cancer treatments.

Methods: The authors determined racial differences in 6-year stage specific survival rates, adjusting for age and treatments (using estrogen receptor [ER] status), to determine whether there were racial differences in treatment. Racial differences in the stage distributions of breast disease were used to examine the impact of racial factors on breast carcinoma diagnosis.

Results: For all breast carcinoma cases, the stage specific 6-year survival rates, in general, were significantly lower for black females for all stages combined and for Stages I-III in every age group. However, examination by different treatments, as measured by ER status, revealed some different results. Only black women younger than age 50 years with ER-positive tumors and women younger than age 65 years with ER-negative tumors had significantly lower stage-specific survival rates. In addition, the stage distribution analyses showed that black females of every age group had less Stage I breast disease.

Conclusions: For younger black women (younger than age 50 years), there was evidence of racial differences in treatment for both women with ER-positive tumors and women with ER-negative tumors, as indicated by their lower stage-specific survival rates. In contrast, for black females age 65 years or older with ER-positive or ER-negative tumors, the lack of a significant difference in the stage-specific survival rate suggests that Medicare may help to alleviate racial disparities in cancer treatment. Furthermore, racial differences in the stage distributions indicated the need for earlier diagnosis for black females of every age.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Survival Rate


  • Receptors, Estrogen