Background: A significant disparity in mortality rates exists between black and white patients with breast carcinoma. This study was designed to compare breast carcinoma tumor characteristics by race and to examine the possible reasons for these differences.
Methods: Female patients with an initial diagnosis of breast carcinoma between January 1, 1985 and December 31, 1993 were selected from the Yale-New Haven Hospital Tumor Registry for this retrospective cohort study. All black patients were eligible and white patients were selected randomly and matched to each black patient by year of diagnosis. Data were gathered from multiple sources including the hospital, the Connecticut Tumor Registry, and the U. S. Census. All pathology specimens were reviewed at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Results: The final cohort had 100 black and 300 white patients. The black patients tended to be younger than white patients at the time of diagnosis (mean age 55 years vs. 60 years; P = 0.001). A significant racial difference was noted in eight tumor characteristics: stage, size of the tumor, lymph node status, presence of necrosis, vascular/lymphatic invasion, ductal carcinoma in situ, perineural invasion, and progesterone receptor status. Although income, medical insurance coverage, and method of tumor detection explained some pathology differences, black patients still were more likely to have necrosis and a larger tumor size, even after adjustment.
Conclusions: Black patients with breast carcinoma tend to be diagnosed at a younger age and in a few important respects have different tumor characteristics compared with white patients, even after controlling for income, medical insurance coverage, and method of tumor detection after screening mammography. These differences may have etiologic and clinical implications.