Background: Previous studies have documented lower breast cancer survival among women with lower socioeconomic status (SES) in the United States. In this study, I examined the extent to which socioeconomic disparity in breast cancer survival was explained by stage at diagnosis, treatment, race and rural/urban residence using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data.
Methods: Women diagnosed with breast cancer during 1998-2002 in the 13 SEER cancer registry areas were followed-up to the end of 2005. The association between an area-based measure of SES and cause-specific five-year survival was estimated using Cox regression models. Six models were used to assess the extent to which SES differences in survival were explained by clinical and demographical factors. The base model estimated the hazard ratio (HR) by SES only and then additional adjustments were made sequentially for: 1) age and year of diagnosis; 2) stage at diagnosis; 3) first course treatment; 4) race; and 5) rural/urban residence.
Results: An inverse association was found between SES and risk of dying from breast cancer (p < 0.0001). As area-level SES falls, HR rises (1.00 --> 1.05 --> 1.23 --> 1.31) with the two lowest SES groups having statistically higher HRs. This SES differential completely disappeared after full adjustment for clinical and demographical factors (p = 0.20).
Conclusion: Stage at diagnosis, first course treatment and race explained most of the socioeconomic disparity in breast cancer survival. Targeted interventions to increase breast cancer screening and treatment coverage in patients with lower SES could reduce much of socioeconomic disparity.