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Cancer. 2002 Nov 1;95(9):1988-99.

Race, socioeconomic status, and breast carcinoma in the U.S: what have we learned from clinical studies.

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Joint Center for Radiation Therapy, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Whether African-American women have biologically more aggressive breast carcinoma compared with white women and whether race acts as a significant independent prognostic factor for survival have not been determined. Alternatively, race merely may be a surrogate for socioeconomic status (SES).


A literature review was performed of clinical trials and retrospective studies in the U.S. that compared survival between white women and black women with breast carcinoma after adjustment for known prognostic factors (patient age, disease stage, lymph node status, and estrogen receptor status) to assess the impact of race and SES.


Single institutional and clinical studies suggest that, when black patients are treated appropriately and other prognostic variables are controlled, their survival is similar to the survival of white patients. Twelve retrospective studies and 1 analysis of a clinical trial included SES and race as variables for survival. Only three of those studies revealed race as a significant prognostic factor for survival after adjusting for SES.


SES replaces race as a predictor of worse outcome after women are diagnosed with breast carcinoma in many studies. However, black women present with more advanced disease that appear more aggressive biologically, and they present at a younger age compared with white women. Further research should be conducted concerning the precise elements of SES that account for the incidence of breast carcinoma, age at diagnosis, hormone receptor status, and survival to devise better strategies to improve outcome.

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