Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Novel Statistical Approach Calculates Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence in American Women

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019

A new statistical method has been developed to infer the risk of breast cancer recurrence among American women. It uses disease-specific survival data from a U.S. cancer registry and could potentially be applied to other cancers, according to research published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

“For the mathematically minded, if we know that A=B+C, and if we know C and A, then we can estimate B,” explained Angela B. Mariotto, PhD, Chief of the Data Analytics Branch, National Cancer Institute, in an American Association for Cancer Research press release. “A is the time from diagnosis to death, B is the time from diagnosis to metastasis, and C is the time from metastasis to death. We estimated B using published studies on cohorts of patients diagnosed with recurrent metastatic breast cancer (A and C).”

The study focused on data from 381,430 women with breast cancer without a prior cancer diagnosis and with complete stage and hormone receptor status found in Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries diagnosed between 1992 and 2013. Applying the statistical “mixture-cure” model, the researchers identified the number of women whose cancer did not progress, or the cure fraction. The overall risk of disease recurrence was formulated based on projected survival in the uncured fraction, or those whose disease did progress, as well as data regarding postrecurrence survival.

The study found that recurrence is more likely for women whose breast cancer diagnosis occurred at an older age, in an earlier period, in a more advanced stage, or with hormone receptor–negative tumors. Patients with hormone receptor–positive breast cancer had a decreased risk of recurrence shortly after diagnosis, but the risk lasted for a longer period than for patients with hormone receptor–negative breast cancer. Between 2000 and 2013, women diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 74 had an estimated recurrence risk within 5 years of 2.5%, 9.6%, and 34.5% for stages I, II, and III hormone receptor–positive tumors, respectively, and 6.5%, 20.2%, and 48.5% for stages I, II, and III hormone receptor–negative tumors, respectively.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at

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