While breast cancer-specific mortality among older women has improved across all races in recent years, other cause-mortality has not, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Annals of Oncology.

Yu Shen, PhD, and fellow researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center looked at SEER-Medicare linked data to identify women who were at least 66 years and were diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer between 2002 to 2009.

Estimating for mortality trends using the Kaplan-Meier method, they wanted to use contemporary population data to study factors associated with overall, breast cancer-specific, and other cause-mortality.

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They found that median overall survival time for non-Hispanic blacks had improved from 8.6 months in 2002 to 2003 to 9.9 months in 2007 to 2009, compared to 12.1 months to 14.8 months among non-Hispanic whites in the same time period.

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Upon multivariate analyses, they also found that risk of breast cancer-specific mortality was significantly lower among patients diagnosed in 2007 to 2009 while other cause-mortality showed little change, compared to risk found in patients diagnosed from 2002 to 2003. Additionally, non-Hispanic blacks were found to have a higher risk of both mortality types compared to non-Hispanic whites.

“Efforts should be devoted to improving other cause mortality for all women, with special attention toward decreasing breast cancer mortality for non-Hispanic black women,” the authors concluded.


  1. Ning J, Peng S, Ueno N, et al. Has racial difference in cause-specific death improved in older patients with late-stage breast cancer?. Ann Oncol. [epub ahead of print]. 2015. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv330. July 28, 2015.