Association of Social Determinants and Tumor Biology With Racial Disparity in Survival From Early-Stage, Hormone-Dependent Breast Cancer

JAMA Oncol. 2023 Apr 1;9(4):536-545. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.7705.


Importance: Black women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer experience the greatest racial disparity in survival of all breast cancer subtypes. The relative contributions of social determinants of health and tumor biology to this disparity are uncertain.

Objective: To determine the proportion of the Black-White disparity in breast cancer survival from estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, axillary node-negative breast cancer that is associated with adverse social determinants and high-risk tumor biology.

Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective mediation analysis of factors associated with the racial disparity in breast cancer death for cases diagnosed between 2004 and 2015 with follow-up through 2016 was carried out using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Oncotype registry. The study included women in the SEER-18 registry who were aged 18 years or older at diagnosis of a first primary invasive breast cancer tumor that was axillary node-negative and ER-positive, who were Black (Black), non-Hispanic White (White), and for whom the 21-gene breast recurrence score was available. Data analysis took place between March 4, 2021, and November 15, 2022.

Exposures: Census tract socioeconomic disadvantage, insurance status, tumor characteristics including the recurrence score, and treatment variables.

Main outcomes and measures: Death due to breast cancer.

Results: The analysis with 60 137 women (mean [IQR] age 58.1 [50-66] years) included 5648 (9.4%) Black women and 54 489 (90.6%) White women. With a median (IQR) follow-up time of 56 (32-86) months, the age-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for breast cancer death among Black compared with White women was 1.82 (95% CI, 1.51-2.20). Neighborhood disadvantage and insurance status together mediated 19% of the disparity (mediated HR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.31-2.00; P < .001) and tumor biological characteristics mediated 20% (mediated HR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.28-1.90; P < .001). A fully adjusted model that included all covariates accounted for 44% of the racial disparity (mediated HR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.11-1.71; P < .001). Neighborhood disadvantage mediated 8% of the racial difference in the probability of a high-risk recurrence score (P = .02).

Conclusions and relevance: In this study, racial differences in social determinants of health and indicators of aggressive tumor biology including a genomic biomarker were equally associated with the survival disparity in early-stage, ER-positive breast cancer among US women. Future research should examine more comprehensive measures of socioecological disadvantage, molecular mechanisms underlying aggressive tumor biology among Black women, and the role of ancestry-related genetic variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Axilla
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Breast Neoplasms* / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Determinants of Health* / ethnology
  • Social Determinants of Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White* / statistics & numerical data


  • Receptors, Estrogen