MONDAY, April 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Biological factors, rather than simply differences in access to health care, may explain why Hispanic women in the United States are more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced and aggressive breast cancers, a new study finds.
Previous research has shown that the incidence of breast cancer varies according to race and ethnicity.
This study, by researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Kaiser Permanente Colorado, found that among women with equal access to health care services such as mammography and regular doctor visits, Hispanics were at significantly higher risk for being diagnosed with more advanced and more aggressive breast cancer and to be diagnosed at a younger age than non-Hispanic women.
Published in the May 15 issue of the journal Cancer, the study found that Hispanic women were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with stage IV disease and about twice as likely to have large tumors with cellular characteristics that predict poorer outcomes.
The study, which included 139 Hispanic and more than 2,100 non-Hispanic breast cancer patients, also found that Hispanic women were diagnosed at an average age of 56, compared to 61 for non-Hispanic women.
The racial differences persisted even after the researchers adjusted for the women's socioeconomic status and the length of time they'd been enrolled in the managed health care system.
The authors concluded that "the persistent findings of earlier mean age at diagnosis, advanced state, poorer grade, larger tumor size and fewer cases with estrogen receptors may suggest that true biological differences exist in breast cancer by ethnicity."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer risk factors.