Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer in Older Women: An Analysis of Retrospective English Cancer Registration Data

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2019 Jul;31(7):444-452. doi: 10.1016/j.clon.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 May 20.


Aims: Adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended as a treatment for women with high recurrence risk early breast cancer. Older women are less likely to receive chemotherapy than younger women. This study investigated the impact of chemotherapy on breast cancer-specific survival in women aged 70 + years using English registry data.

Materials and methods: Cancer registration data were obtained from two English regions from 2002 to 2012 (n = 29 728). The impact of patient-level characteristics on the probability of receiving adjuvant chemotherapy was explored using logistic regression. Survival modelling was undertaken to show the effect of chemotherapy and age/health status on breast cancer-specific survival. Missing data were handled using multiple imputation.

Results: In total, 11 735 surgically treated early breast cancer patients were identified. Use of adjuvant chemotherapy has increased over time. Younger age at diagnosis, increased nodal involvement, tumour size and grade, oestrogen receptor-negative or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive disease were all associated with increased probability of receiving chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was associated with a significant reduction in the hazard of breast cancer-specific mortality in women with high risk cancer, after adjusting for patient-level characteristics (hazard ratio 0.74, 95% confidence interval 0.67-0.81).

Discussion: Chemotherapy is associated with an improved breast cancer-specific survival in older women with early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence . Lower rates of chemotherapy use in older women may, therefore, contribute to inferior cancer outcomes. Decisions on potential benefits for individual patients should be made on the basis of life expectancy, treatment tolerance and patient preference.

Keywords: Adjuvant chemotherapy; breast cancer; high risk; older women; survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis