Hispanic/Latina Women at Greater Risk of Dying From Breast Cancer Than Non-Hispanic Whites


Tumor-related factors that lead to chemotherapy resistance in Hispanic women make them more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Hispanic whites.


Hispanic women are more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Hispanic whites, according to a study presented at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The increased risk appears to be due to tumor-related factors that lead to resistance to chemotherapy, the authors stated.

The New Mexico Women’s Health Study (NMWHS), conducted from 1992 to 1996, looked at the differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women for risk of developing breast cancer. The study identified 692 women with a first primary breast cancer, 577 of them invasive breast cancer. Kathy Baumgartner, PhD, Professor of epidemiology and associate dean at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and colleagues followed the 577 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer through 2008 to assess long-term survival differences between the two groups of women in NMWHS. Hispanic women had a 20% increased risk of death from breast cancer compared with non-Hispanic white women.

Baumgartner said this is consistent with other reports. After adjusting for other risk factors, including age, stage, lymph-node involvement, and estrogen receptor (ER) status, the risk dropped considerably, suggesting that there is a biological basis for the difference in breast cancer mortality among Hispanics, Baumgartner noted.

The adjusted analysis also showed that Hispanic women treated with chemotherapy were 1.5 times more likely to die from breast cancer compared with non-Hispanic whites who received chemotherapy. Baumgartner suggested that the altered response to chemotherapy is related to the development of resistance and may party explain the differences in survival between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women. There was no difference among the two ethnic groups in deaths due to other causes.

“It is not clear how much of this ethnic difference in survival is due to socioeconomic factors that influence access to screening and treatment or to biological factors. There have been studies suggesting that Hispanic women are more likely to develop ER-negative tumors that are resistant to chemotherapy,” she stated.

Coinciding with this presentation at SABCS, SHARE (Self-Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer) announced a new program at a poster session aimed specifically at Latina women to convey information that is personal and accessible to this group of women, many of whom do not undergo screening or seek consultations with doctors if they suspect that they have breast cancer.

SHARE’S outreach to Latina women includes a comic-book-style Novela written in Spanish called “Se Valiente … Son Tus Senos” (Be brave….. They’re Your Breasts). The Novela has been distributed to 25,000 people at 478 sites within New York City and 89 other sites in the US as well as internationally. Pre- and post-test evaluations show that the Novela significantly increases Latina women’s knowledge about breast health, breast cancer, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.

“Breast cancer remains a leading cause of death among Latina women, and 5-year survival rates remain lower than those of other groups. Language and cultural barriers, as well as myths and fears, prevent many women from being diagnosed early and receiving adequate treatment. The Novela has been shown to have a critical impact on dispelling those myths and providing accurate and relevant information,” said SHARE’s Senior Director of Programs, Ivis Sampayo.

More information is available at

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