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      Cardiovascular disease competes with breast cancer as the leading cause of death for older females diagnosed with breast cancer: a retrospective cohort study


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          Many women who survive breast cancer die of causes unrelated to their cancer diagnosis. This study was undertaken to assess factors that are related to breast cancer mortality versus mortality from other causes and to describe the leading causes of death among older women diagnosed with breast cancer.


          Women diagnosed with breast cancer at age 66 or older between 1992 and 2000 were identified in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results-Medicare linked database and followed through the end of 2005.


          A total of 63,566 women diagnosed with breast cancer met the inclusion criteria and were followed for a median of approximately nine years. Almost one-half (48.7%) were alive at the end of follow-up. Ages and comorbidities at the time of diagnosis had the largest effects on mortality from other causes, while tumor stage, tumor grade, estrogen receptor status, age and comorbidities at the time of diagnosis all had effects on breast cancer-specific mortality. Fully adjusted relative hazards of the effects of comorbidities on breast cancer-specific mortality were 1.24 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.13 to 1.26) for cardiovascular disease, 1.13 (95% CI 1.13 to 1.26) for previous cancer, 1.13 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.22) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 1.10 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.16) for diabetes. Among the total study population, cardiovascular disease was the primary cause of death in the study population (15.9% (95% CI 15.6 to 16.2)), followed closely by breast cancer (15.1% (95% CI 14.8 to 15.4)).


          Comorbid conditions contribute importantly to both total mortality and breast cancer-specific mortality among breast cancer survivors. Attention to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease should be a priority for the long-term care of women following the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

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          Hormone receptor status, tumor characteristics, and prognosis: a prospective cohort of breast cancer patients

          Background Breast cancer patients with tumors that are estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and/or progesterone receptor (PR)-positive have lower risks of mortality after their diagnosis compared to women with ER- and/or PR-negative disease. However, few studies have evaluated variations in the risks of breast cancer-specific mortality across ER/PR status by either demographic or clinical characteristics. Methods Using data from 11 population-based cancer registries that participate in the SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) program, 155,175 women at least 30 years old with a primary diagnosis of invasive breast carcinoma from 1990 to 2001 were included in the study. Associations between joint hormone receptor status and breast cancer mortality risk within categories of diagnosis age, diagnosis year, race/ethnicity, histologic tumor type, stage, grade, size, and axillary lymph node status were evaluated using the Cox proportional hazards model. Results Compared to ER+/PR+ cases, elevations in risk of mortality were observed across all subcategories of age at diagnosis, ranging from 1.2- to 1.5-fold differences for ER+/PR- cases, 1.5- to 2.1-fold differences for ER-/PR+ cases, and 2.1- to 2.6-fold differences for ER-/PR- cases. Greater differences were observed in analyses stratified by grade; among women with low-grade lesions, ER-/PR- patients had a 2.6-fold (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7 to 3.9) to 3.1-fold (95% CI 2.8 to 3.4) increased risk of mortality compared to ER+/PR+ patients, but among women with high-grade lesions, they had a 2.1-fold (95% CI 1.9 to 2.2) to 2.3-fold (95% CI 1.8 to 2.8) increased risk. Conclusion Compared to women with ER+/PR+ tumors, women with ER+/PR-, ER-/PR+, or ER-/PR- tumors experienced higher risks of mortality, which were largely independent of the various demographic and clinical tumor characteristics assessed in this study. The higher relative mortality risks identified among ER-/PR- patients with small or low-grade tumors raise the question of whether there may be a beneficial role for adjuvant chemotherapy in this population.
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            Effect of age and comorbidity in postmenopausal breast cancer patients aged 55 years and older.

            Postmenopausal women aged 55 years and older have 66% of incident breast tumors and experience 77% of breast cancer mortality, but other age-related health problems may affect tumor prognosis and treatment decisions. To document the comorbidity burden of postmenopausal breast cancer patients and evaluate its relationship with age on disease stage, treatment, and early mortality. Data were collected on breast cancer patients' comorbidities by retrospective hospital medical records review and merged with information on patients' tumor characteristics collected from 6 regional National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registries. Patients were followed up until death or for 30 months from breast cancer diagnosis. Population-based random sample of 1800 postmenopausal breast cancer patients diagnosed in 1992 stratified by 3 age groups: 55 to 64 years, 65 to 74 years, and 75 years and older. Extent of disease, therapy received, comorbidity, cause of death, and survival. Seventy-three percent (1312 of 1800) of the sample was diagnosed with stage I and II breast cancer, 10% (n = 188) with stage III and IV breast cancer, and 17% (n = 300) did not have a stage assignment. Of the 1017 patients with stage I and stage II node-negative breast cancer, 95% received therapy in agreement with the National Institutes of Health consensus statement recommendation for early-stage breast cancer. Patients in older age groups were less likely to receive therapy consistent with the consensus statement (P<.001), and women aged 70 years and older were significantly less likely to receive axillary lymph node dissection as determined by logistic regression analysis (P<.01). Diabetes, renal failure, stroke, liver disease, a previous malignant tumor, and smoking were significant in predicting early mortality in a statistical model that included age and disease stage. Breast cancer was the underlying cause of death for 135 decedents (51.3%). Heart disease (n = 45, 17.1%) and previous cancers (n = 22, 8.4%) were the next major underlying causes. In the 30-month follow-up period, 263 patients (15%) died. Patient care decisions occur in the context of breast cancer and other age-related conditions. Comorbidity in older patients may limit the ability to obtain prognostic information (ie, axillary lymph node dissection), tends to minimize treatment options (eg, breast-conserving therapy), and increases the risk of death from causes other than breast cancer.
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              Development of a comorbidity index using physician claims data.

              Important comorbidities recorded on outpatient claims in administrative datasets may be missed in analyses when only inpatient care is considered. Using the comorbid conditions identified by Charlson and colleagues, we developed a comorbidity index that incorporates the diagnostic and procedure data contained in Medicare physician (Part B) claims. In the national cohorts of elderly prostate (n = 28,868) and breast cancer (n = 14,943) patients assessed in this study, less than 10% of patients had comorbid conditions identified when only Medicare hospital (Part A) claims were examined. By incorporating physician claims, the proportion of patients with comorbid conditions increased to 25%. The new physician claims comorbidity index significantly contributes to models of 2-year noncancer mortality and treatment received in both patient cohorts. We demonstrate the utility of a disease-specific index using an alternative method of construction employing study-specific weights. The physician claims index can be used in conjunction with a comorbidity index derived from inpatient hospital claims, or employed as a stand-alone measure.

                Author and article information

                Breast Cancer Res
                Breast Cancer Research : BCR
                BioMed Central
                20 June 2011
                : 13
                : 3
                : R64
                [1 ]Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, 13001 E. 17th Place, Aurora, CO 80045, USA
                [2 ]Department of Quality and Patient Safety, Atrius Health and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, 275 Grove Street, Newton, MA 02466, USA
                Copyright ©2011 Patnaik et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 2 December 2010
                : 29 March 2011
                : 20 June 2011
                Research Article

                Oncology & Radiotherapy
                Oncology & Radiotherapy


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