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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Jan;20(1):112-22. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0944. Epub 2010 Nov 30.

Race-specific impact of natural history, mammography screening, and adjuvant treatment on breast cancer mortality rates in the United States.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC Room AE-134, P.O. Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



U.S. Black women have higher breast cancer mortality rates than White women despite lower incidence. The aim of this study is to investigate how much of the mortality disparity can be attributed to racial differences in natural history, uptake of mammography screening, and use of adjuvant therapy.


Two simulation models use common national race, and age-specific data for incidence, screening and treatment dissemination, stage distributions, survival, and competing mortality from 1975 to 2010. Treatment effectiveness and mammography sensitivity are assumed to be the same for both races. We sequentially substituted Black parameters into the White model to identify parameters that drive the higher mortality for Black women in the current time period.


Both models accurately reproduced observed breast cancer incidence, stage and tumor size distributions, and breast cancer mortality for White women. The higher mortality for Black women could be attributed to differences in natural history parameters (26-44%), use of adjuvant therapy (11-19%), and uptake of mammography screening (7-8%), leaving 38% to 46% unexplained.


Black women appear to have benefited less from cancer control advances than White women, with a greater race-related gap in the use of adjuvant therapy than screening. However, a greater portion of the disparity in mortality appears to be due to differences in natural history and undetermined factors.


Breast cancer mortality may be reduced substantially by ensuring that Black women receive equal adjuvant treatment and screening as White women. More research on racial variation in breast cancer biology and treatment utilization is needed.

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