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Br J Cancer. 2012 Sep 25;107(7):1175-80. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2012.192. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Are lower rates of surgery amongst older women with breast cancer in the UK explained by co-morbidity?

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  • 1School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Manchester, 5.332 Jean McFarlane Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.



Around 60% of women ≥ 80 years old, in the UK do not have surgery for their breast cancer (vs<10% of younger age groups). The extent to which this difference can be accounted for by co-morbidity has not been established.


A Cancer Registry/Hospital Episode Statistics-linked data set identified women aged ≥ 65 years diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (between 1 April 1997 and 31 March 2005) in two regions of the UK (n=23038). Receipt of surgery by age was investigated using logistic regression, adjusting for co-morbidity and other patient, tumour and treatment factors.


Overall, 72% of older women received surgery, varying from 86% of 65-69-year olds to 34% of women aged ≥ 85 years. The proportion receiving surgery fell with increasing co-morbidity (Charlson score 0=73%, score 1=66%, score 2+=49%). However, after adjustment for co-morbidity, older age still predicts lack of surgery. Compared with 65-69-year olds, the odds of surgery decreased from 0.74 (95% CI: 0.66-0.83) for 70-74-year olds to 0.13 (95% CI: 0.11-0.14) for women aged ≥ 85 years.


Although co-morbidity is associated with a reduced likelihood of surgery, it does not explain the shortfall in surgery amongst older women in the UK. Routine data on co-morbidity enables fairer comparison of treatment across population groups but needs to be more complete.

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