Background: The National Cancer Institute Black/White Cancer Survival Study began patient accrual in 1985 and was designed to investigate factors that might contribute to the observed racial differences in survival for cancer of the breast, uterine corpus, colon, and bladder.
Methods: To determine whether there were racial differences in treatment in a clinically homogeneous set of patients, 305 (25%) of the 1222 women in this study with Stage II node-positive (N+) breast cancer were evaluated.
Results: Patient characteristics for blacks and whites were similar for age, metropolitan area of residence, tumor size, extent of nodal involvement, and steroid receptors. Differences in histologic findings, tumor grade, and nuclear atypia were observed. Blacks had a higher frequency of comorbid conditions, especially hypertension (P < 0.00001). Fewer blacks underwent breast-conserving surgery (P = 0.004). In a multivariate analysis, race was no longer a significant factor in the selection of primary treatment, but education and metropolitan area of residence remained significant. Blacks and whites received similar postoperative systemic therapy, with combination chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil) and tamoxifen, the most common cytotoxic and endocrine therapies used.
Conclusions: The National Cancer Institute consensus statement concerning adjuvant therapy for breast cancer was published in the middle of the 2-year period that study cases were accrued, and treatment plans in this study generally agreed with consensus guidelines. Should survival differences in black and white patients with Stage II N+ disease in this study be found, they are unlikely to be attributable to differences in initial or postoperative treatment.