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The risk is especially high among black women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors, according to Erica Warner, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
She and her colleagues looked at data from more than 19,000 U.S. women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2007 and followed for an average of about seven years.
Overall, black patients were 48 percent more likely than white patients to die of breast cancer in the first three years after diagnosis, and had a 34 percent higher risk afterward, the investigators found.
Asian breast cancer patients were 40 percent less likely to die than white patients. There was no difference in death risk between Hispanic and white patients, the study authors noted.
The study also found the black patients with estrogen receptor-positive tumors were more than twice as likely to die within three years of diagnosis than white patients with that type of breast cancer.
In addition, black women with luminal A and luminal B breast cancer subtypes were also much more likely to die within three years of diagnosis than white women with those cancer subtypes.
"This finding is important because these are the types of tumors that we traditionally think of as more treatable," Warner said in an association news release.
There were no differences in death risk between black women and white women with estrogen receptor-negative, basal or HER2-overexpressing tumor subtypes, the investigators noted.
"The results of this study emphasize that clinical management and follow-up for patients with breast cancer, particularly black women, is important in the first few years after diagnosis," Warner said.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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