Confirmation of double-peaked time distribution of mortality among Asian breast cancer patients in a population-based study

Division of Clinical Trials and Epidemiological Sciences, National Cancer Centre, Singapore.
Breast cancer research: BCR (Impact Factor: 5.49). 02/2007; 9(2):R21. DOI: 10.1186/bcr1658
Source: PubMed


Double-peaked time distributions of the mortality hazard function have been reported for breast cancer patients from Western populations treated with mastectomy alone. These are thought to reflect accelerated tumour growth at micrometastatic sites mediated by angiogenesis after primary tumour removal as well as tumor dormancy. Similar data are not available for Asian populations. We sought to investigate whether differences exist in the pattern of mortality hazard function between Western breast cancer patients and their Asian counterparts in Singapore, which may suggest underlying differences in tumor biology between the two populations.
We performed a retrospective cohort study of female unilateral breast cancer patients diagnosed in Singapore between October 1994 and June 1999. Data regarding patient demographics, tumour characteristics and death were available. Overall survival curves were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. The hazard rate was calculated as the conditional probability of dying in a time interval, given that the patient was alive at the beginning of the interval. The life table method was used to calculate the yearly hazard rates.
In the 2,105 women identified, 956 patients (45.4%) had mastectomy alone. Demographic characteristics were as follows: 86.5% were Chinese, 45.2% were postmenopausal, 38.9% were hormone receptor positive, 54.6% were node negative and 44.1% had high histological grade. We observed a double-peaked mortality hazard pattern, with a first peak in mortality achieving its maximum between years 2 and 4 after mastectomy, and a second large peak in mortality during year 9. Analyses by subgroups revealed a similar pattern regardless of T stage, or node or menopausal status. This pattern was also noted in high-grade tumors but not in those that were well to moderately differentiated. The double-peaked pattern observed in Singaporean women was quantitatively and qualitatively similar to those reported in Western series.
Our study confirms the existence of a double-peaked process in Asian patients, and it gives further support to the tumour dormancy hypothesis after mastectomy.

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    • "In addition to immunosuppression [11] and hormone deprival [14], it has been suggested that wound healing following the primary surgery might be one such synchronizing signal, by turning on the angiogenic switch in dormant micrometastases and thereby activating angiogenesis [16–18]. The frequently observed peak in the hazard ratio of relapse around 18 months, independent of primary tumor stage [20, 25, 43], has been attributed to the systemic response to primary surgery of breast tumors [44]. "
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