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Breast Cancer Mortality in Older and Younger Breast Cancer Patients in California



Breast cancer in younger patients is reported to be more aggressive and associated with lower survival; however, factors associated with age-specific mortality differences have not been adequately assessed.


We used data from the population-based California Cancer Registry for 38,509 younger (18-49 years) and 121,573 older (50 years and older) women diagnosed with stage I to III breast cancer, 2005-2014. Multivariable Cox regression models were used to estimate breast cancer-specific mortality rate ratios (MRR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), stratified by tumor subtype, guideline treatment, and care at an NCI-designated cancer center (NCICC).


Older breast cancer patients at diagnosis experienced 17% higher disease-specific mortality than younger patients, after multivariable adjustment (MRR = 1.17; 95% CI, 1.11-1.23). Higher MRRs (95% CI) were observed for older versus younger patients with hormone receptor (HR)+/HER2- (1.24; 1.14-1.35) and HR+/HER2+ (1.38; 1.17-1.62), but not for HR-/HER2+ (HR = 0.94; 0.79-1.12) nor triple-negative breast cancers (1.01; 0.92-1.11). The higher mortality in older versus younger patients was diminished among patients who received guideline-concordant treatment (MRR = 1.06; 95% CI, 0.99-1.14) and reversed among those seen at an NCICC (MRR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.73-1.01).


Although younger women tend to be diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancers, adjusting for these aggressive features results in older patients having higher mortality than younger patients, with variations by age, tumor subtype, receipt of guideline treatment, and being cared for at an NCICC.


Higher breast cancer mortality in older compared with younger women could partly be addressed by ensuring optimal treatment and comprehensive patient-centered care.

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