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Older black women with breast cancer do not receive beneficial chemotherapy as often as white women

Research Activities, November 2009

Older women (65 to 69 years old) with operable breast cancer that has spread to one or more lymph nodes often benefit from receiving chemotherapy, clinical trials show. However, black women in this age group do not receive chemotherapy as often as white women, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Texas used data from Medicare, the U.S. Census, and the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registry. They found 14,177 white women and 1,277 black women who were diagnosed with operable stage II or IIIA breast cancer with positive lymph nodes between 1991 and 2002. For the 65-69 age group, 66 percent of white women received chemotherapy within 6 months of being diagnosed compared with 56 percent of black women. However, this racial disparity diminished with age.

For instance, after age 74 there were no significant differences between the percentages of white and black women receiving chemotherapy. When researchers adjusted the results to include socioeconomic status for women aged 65 to 69, poverty appeared to be at the root of the racial differences in who received chemotherapy. Despite being insured by Medicare, out-of-pocket costs and copayments may be burdensome for women without means, and women who live in poor areas may also have poor health, other health conditions, and employment difficulties. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16743). See “Racial and socioeconomic disparities in adjuvant chemotherapy for older women with lymph node-positive, operable breast cancer,” by Alessia Bhargava and Xianglin L. Du, M.D., Ph.D., in the July 1, 2009 Cancer 115(13), pp. 2999-3008.

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Page last reviewed November 2009
Internet Citation: Older black women with breast cancer do not receive beneficial chemotherapy as often as white women: Research Activities, November 2009. November 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.