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Race Affects African-American Survival of Breast Cancer

African-American women with breast cancer were more likely to have larger, later-stage tumors that were more difficult to treat and also had lower survival rates than Hispanic// and Caucasian women who received the same treatment in two independent series of clinical trials examined by researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The analysis published on line Oct. 23 by Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, indicates that race is associated with unfavorable tumor biology, which, along with other factors, likely contributes to the lower rate of breast cancer survival among African-Americans.

"These findings should prompt additional research on how we can improve outcomes for African-American patients by understanding and addressing tumor biology," says first author Wendy Woodward, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at M. D. Anderson. "It's important to identify unique features in different populations and subgroups of all women with breast cancer so we can understand a woman's risk and factors that affect her care on an individual level."

African-American women are less likely than Caucasian women to have breast cancer but are more likely to die from it. Many factors have been implicated in this disparity, the researchers note, including access to health care and screening, differing treatments, socioeconomic status and racial bias.

By examining two series of clinical trials in which treatment was specified and rigorously followed for all patients, the research team minimized biases related to access to care and type of treatment, two variables that often confound analysis of the issue.

Between 1975 and 2000, 2,140 breast cancer patients were treated in two prospective series of clinical trials at M. D. Anderson involving use of the chemotherapy doxorubicin before and after a radical or modified radical mastectomy.

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