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A study out of MD Anderson, published in the Nov. 7, 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, finds that patients 65 and older are not seeing the same decline in death rates from breast cancer as younger patients.

The study found significant shifts in breast cancer mortality over time. In 1980-84, women aged 75 and older had the lowest 10-year risk of breast cancer death (24 percent) while the risk ranged from 29 percent to 31 percent for those younger than 75. However, by 1995-97, the 10-year risk of breast cancer death was 17.3 percent for women 75 and older and 15.4 percent to 16.6 percent for younger women.

“Given the fact that breast cancer is growing rapidly, we really need to focus research exclusively on developing optimal treatments for older women with breast cancer, evaluating how we can predict which older women can tolerate treatments, and develop new treatments that work better,” said lead author Dr. Benjamin Smith, an assistant professor in the radiation oncology department, in an MD Anderson news release .

“We found that the oldest women, regardless of their race, and blacks, regardless of their age, are not benefiting as much from improvements in breast cancer treatments,” Smith added.

More than 230,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society. About 40,000 of them were 75 and older, which makes them the fastest-growing segment of the breast cancer population, according to Smith.

(SOURCE: MD Anderson Cancer Center, news release, Nov. 7, 2011)

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