The black women were more likely to be older, unmarried, and to have more chronic diseases, the team found. Banjeree also found that women whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes were more likely to receive supplemental treatments if they were married, regardless of their race.
Among the women with local-stage disease that had not reached the lymph nodes, the rates of the supplemental therapy were similar between blacks and whites, she found.
The new research adds information to the body of knowledge about ethnic differences in cancer and cancer care, the lead author said. For years, researchers have known that blacks are more likely to die from breast cancer than are white women. A couple of hypotheses have been touted to explain why, she said.
Some experts have speculated that the differences are due to variance in socioeconomic status, accompanying diseases and access to care, Banerjee said. Others believe there's something about tumor biology -- that breast cancer may differ among women of different races. Still others think it's a bit of both, she said.
Banerjee said her study focused on treatment, looking to see if race-associated differences existed in women with essentially the same type and stage of cancer.
The study adds valuable information to what is known about ethnic differences in breast cancer, said Dr. Gloria Morris, assistant professor of medicine in the department of medical oncology at Kimmel Cancer Center, part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
"Other studies have found treatment delays between races," she said. According to Morris, the take-home message here is that, "early detection is important so breast cancer can be caught at an early stage -- local instead of what this study refers to as regional stage, where cancer has reached the lymph nodes."
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