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Women’s College Hospital study finds diagnosis of breast cancer in South Asian women is at a later stage

A new study links ethnicity to stage at breast cancer diagnosis.

The research, from Women's College Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), found that South Asian women were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage compared to women in the general Ontario population. Chinese women were more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

The study was led by medical oncologist Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, a scientist at the Women's College Research Institute. Dr. Ginsburg and her co-researchers used Ontario cancer registries to identify 41,296 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer from 2005 through to 2010, with available staging information.

The researchers used a validated method to identify 705 South Asian and 1,304 Chinese breast cancer patients by their surnames. The researchers then compared the stage at breast cancer diagnosis in these women to the stage at breast cancer diagnosis of the remaining 39,287 women in the general Ontario population.

They found that the South Asian and Chinese women tended to be younger than the women in the general population of breast cancer patients (57 and 54 years old, respectively, compared to 61 in the general population). Even after adjusting the results for age differences, the South Asian women were more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage.

South Asian women were 28 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with stage II versus stage I breast cancer, compared to the general population. They were also 26 per cent more likely to be diagnosed at stage II or IV versus stage I, compared to the general population.

Chinese women were 18 per cent less likely to be diagnosed at stage II versus stage I, and 27 per cent less likely to be diagnosed at stage III or IV versus stage I, compared to the general population.

The stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed is an important predictor of survival; these findings provide important insights on improving cancer prognosis in these patients.

The study authors note that screening rates for breast cancer are often lower in women from minority groups, which could affect stage at diagnosis. Prevention and education programs tailored for women from backgrounds that may be less likely to seek screening could help address differences in stage at diagnosis. In Ontario, such efforts have already been made in the Chinese community. The study results suggest that those efforts may have had some success.

The study was published in Current Oncology on April 20, 2015.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital