Older Breast Cancer Patients Likely to Die of Heart Disease

Older women with breast cancer more likely to die from comorbidities than from cancer

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Older women diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die from comorbid conditions, especially cardiovascular disease (CVD), rather than from breast cancer, according to a study published online June 20 in Breast Cancer Research.

Jennifer L. Patnaik, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado Denver in Aurora, and colleagues examined the factors related to breast cancer-specific mortality compared with other-cause mortality. Data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End-Results Medicare linked database identified 63,566 women, aged 66 and older, who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1992 and 2000. These women were followed through 2005, and the leading causes of death were analyzed.

The investigators found that almost half (48.7 percent) of the women were still alive at the end of the follow-up period. Tumor stage, tumor grade, estrogen receptor status, age, and comorbidities at the time of diagnosis were the factors influencing breast cancer-specific mortality, while mortality from other causes was most affected by age and comorbidities at the time of diagnosis. Adjusted hazard ratios for comorbidities affecting breast cancer-specific mortality were 1.24 for CVD, 1.13 for previous cancer, 1.13 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 1.10 for diabetes. The leading cause of death in the study population was CVD (15.9 percent), followed by breast cancer (15.1 percent).

"Many older women diagnosed with breast cancer die as a result of comorbid conditions rather than from breast cancer," the authors write.

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