Differences in breast cancer stage at diagnosis and cancer-specific survival by race and ethnicity in the United States

JAMA. 2015 Jan 13;313(2):165-73. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.17322.


Importance: Women with early-stage breast cancers are expected to have excellent survival rates. It is important to identify factors that predict diagnosis of early-stage breast cancers.

Objective: To determine the proportion of breast cancers that were identified at an early stage (stage I) in different racial/ethnic groups and whether ethnic differences may be better explained by early detection or by intrinsic biological differences in tumor aggressiveness.

Design, setting, and participants: Observational study of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 2004 to 2011 who were identified in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) 18 registries database (N = 452,215). For each of 8 racial/ethnic groups, biological aggressiveness (triple-negative cancers, lymph node metastases, and distant metastases) of small-sized tumors of 2.0 cm or less was estimated. The odds ratio (OR) for being diagnosed at stage I compared with a later stage and the hazard ratio (HR) for death from stage I breast cancer by racial/ethnic group were determined. The date of final follow-up was December 31, 2011.

Main outcomes and measures: Breast cancer stage at diagnosis and 7-year breast cancer-specific survival, adjusted for age at diagnosis, income, and estrogen receptor status.

Results: Of 373,563 women with invasive breast cancer, 268,675 (71.9%) were non-Hispanic white; 34,928 (9.4%), Hispanic white; 38,751 (10.4%), black; 25,211 (6.7%), Asian; and 5998 (1.6%), other ethnicities. Mean follow-up time was 40.6 months (median, 38 months). Compared with non-Hispanic white women diagnosed with stage I breast cancer (50.8%), Japanese women (56.1%) were more likely to be diagnosed (OR, 1.23 [95% CI, 1.15-1.31], P < .001) and black women (37.0%) were less likely to be diagnosed (OR, 0.65 [95% CI, 0.64-0.67], P < .001). Actuarial risk of death from stage I breast cancer at 7 years was higher among black women (6.2%) than non-Hispanic white women (3.0%) (HR, 1.57 [95% CI, 1.40-1.75]; P < .001), and lower among South Asian women (1.7%) (HR, 0.48 [95% CI, 0.20-1.15]; P = .10). Black women were more likely to die of breast cancer with small-sized tumors (9.0%) than non-Hispanic white women (4.6%) (HR, 1.96 [95% CI, 1.82-2.12]; P < .001); the difference remained after adjustment for income and estrogen receptor status (HR, 1.56 [95% CI, 1.45-1.69]; P < .001).

Conclusions and relevance: Among US women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, the likelihood of diagnosis at an early stage, and survival after stage I diagnosis, varied by race and ethnicity. Much of the difference could be statistically accounted for by intrinsic biological differences such as lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, and triple-negative behavior of tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Blacks / statistics & numerical data
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging*
  • Registries
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • United States
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data