MCW Researchers to Study Socioeconomic Factors in Breast Cancer Mortality Rates

May 3, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a $1.1 million, three year grant from the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute to study socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

Liliana E. Pezzin, PhD, JD, professor of medicine, is the primary investigator of the project. Ann B. Nattinger, MD, Lady Riders Professor of Breast Cancer Research and director of the Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research at MCW, is co-primary investigator.

Socioeconomic disparities in survival from breast cancer developed during the 1980's and 1990's, and have persisted into the new millennium. Evidence suggests some possible reasons are the use of screening and follow-up mammography, the use of breast-conserving surgery with radiotherapy, and the choice of alternate therapies (for example, aromatase inhibitors vs. tamoxifen). Additionally, these disparities may be linked to patients treated in low-volume hospitals, which are associated with lower survival rates.

In this project, the researchers aim to document the socioeconomic disparities in patterns of breast cancer care, identify key factors, and simulate the effects of public policies on cancer mortality. Ultimately, the goal is to provide policymakers, researchers and advocacy societies with an improved understanding of the factors that might explain socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer outcomes, with an eye to developing effective strategies to eliminate them. The results of this study will also be important in demonstrating or refuting a potentially important benefit of the Medicare Part D program.

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