Background: Little is known about the cause of inflammatory breast carcinoma (IBC), the most aggressive form of breast cancer. To the authors' knowledge, no studies have investigated whether IBC risk factors are different from those for breast carcinoma overall, and there has been only one report of IBC incidence and survival patterns.
Methods: The authors used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute for the period 1975-1992 to calculate age-adjusted incidence and survival rates for 913 white and 121 African American women with IBC involving dermal invasion of lymphatic ducts and 166,375 white and 13,674 African American women with other types of breast carcinoma (non-IBC).
Results: Between 1975-1977 and 1990-1992, IBC incidence doubled, increasing among whites from 0.3 to 0.7 cases per 100,000 person-years and among African Americans from 0.6 to 1.1 cases. However, rates for African Americans varied due to the small numbers of IBC cases. The twofold increase in IBC incidence was higher than that observed for non-IBC during the same period (27% for African Americans and 25% for whites). IBC patients were significantly younger at diagnosis than non-IBC patients; and among both IBC and non-IBC patients, African Americans were younger than whites. Overall survival was significantly worse for IBC patients than for non-IBC patients and for African Americans than for whites. Among whites, 3-year survival improved more for IBC patients than for non-IBC patients between 1975-1979 and 1988-1992, increasing from 32% to 42% for IBC patients (P=0.0001) and from 80% to 85% for non-IBC patients (P=0.0001).
Conclusions: The disparities observed in incidence trends and age at diagnosis, particularly according to race, highlight the need for further investigation of the differences between IBC and non-IBC incidence.