Breast Cancer Deadlier in Older, Postmenopausal Women
Breast cancer is more likely to kill older women than younger women, and age may play a greater role in cancer survival than previously believed, according to a new study.
Researchers in the Netherlands followed nearly 10,000 postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which is the most common form of the disease. They found that women over 75 years old were 63 percent more likely to die of the cancer than those younger than 65.
According to 2011 figures by the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women (after skin cancer). Recurrence is more common among older women. About 1 in 8 women will get invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Five out of every 100 women in the below-65 group and six out of every 100 women in the 65-to-74 group died from the cancer within five years, the researchers said. For women over age 75, the risk was higher: Eight out of every 100 women succumbed to the disease.
"Because breast cancer incidence increases with increasing age, changing demographics and continuously increasing life expectancy will further enlarge the number of older women confronted with breast cancer," the authors wrote.
The researchers also noted that women in the older group had larger tumors than younger women at the time of diagnosis. In addition, women over 75 were much less likely to opt to undergo surgery or chemotherapy.
The study was published in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.