African-American breast cancer patients survive as long as their
Caucasian counterparts, a new study with up to a 40-year follow-up
shows. The study, conducted at the University of Chicago, also
found that African-American women do not have more aggressive
"These findings contradict other studies which indicate that
African-American women are more likely to die from the disease
because they have biologically more aggressive tumors," said
Dr. Ruth Heimann, assistant professor in the department of radiation
and cellular oncology.
About 1,700 women (1,277 Caucasians and 481 African-Americans)
who were treated with mastectomy from 1927 to 1987 were studied,
Dr. Heimann said.
The disease-free survival rate was similar for both races regardless
of the size of the tumor or whether the cancer had spread into
the patient's lymph nodes, Dr. Heimann told the American Society
for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology at its annual meeting in
For example, she said, African-American patients with early-stage
disease--tumors 2 cm and less and no lymph node involvement--had
a disease-free survival rate of 83%, as compared with 78% for
African-American patients with more advanced disease--those with
four or more involved nodes--had an 18% disease-free survival
rate, as opposed to 17% for their Caucasian counterparts.
"We also compared how many lymph nodes contained cancer cells.
African-American women had the same number as Caucasians if their
tumor size was the same." Dr. Heimann said. This strongly
indicates that African-Americans do not have more aggressive disease,
but rather, have the same type of disease as Caucasian women,
"We've begun looking at each patient's cells to see if the
patient is more likely to have cancer spread," Dr. Heimann
said. Preliminary data show that African-Americans were only as
likely as their Caucasian counterparts to have cancer spread.
The study also emphasizes the importance of early screening for
breast cancer, she noted. Nearly 40% of the Caucasians and more
than 40% of the African-Americans were under age 50 when they
were treated for the disease