Racial and ethnic disparities in breast tumor aggressiveness might be explained by social factors that influence the developing tumor and place those in disadvantaged groups at higher risk for aggressive breast cancer, according to data presented at the Fifth AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held here Oct. 27-30, 2012.
"There is a disparity in the biological aggressiveness of breast cancer," said Garth H. Rauscher, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "We tend to think about biological differences being due to differences in genes, but tumor biology can be affected by social or behavioral factors that are associated with socioeconomic status. Our study highlights the importance of the social environment in influencing tumor biology and ultimately influencing disparities."
Rauscher and colleagues examined data from a population-based sample of 989 patients with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer (397 non-Hispanic whites, 411 non-Hispanic blacks and 181 Hispanics) from the Breast Cancer Care in Chicago Study. Patients were aged 30 to 79 years and had primary in situ or invasive breast cancer. A total of 742 patients consented to medical record abstraction and had medical record data available for estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status.
Researchers established socioeconomic disadvantage using four measurements: individual income, individual education and two census tract measures of socioeconomic status - concentrated disadvantage and concentrated affluence.