BACKGROUND: Receptor-defined breast cancer proportions vary across Africa. They have important implications for survival prospects and research priorities. METHODS: We studied estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and HER2 receptor statuses in two multiracial Southern African countries with routine diagnostic immunohistochemistry. A total of 12,361 women with histologically confirmed breast cancer diagnosed at age >/=20 years during (i) 2009-2011 from South Africa's national cancer registry (public sector) and (ii) 2011-2013 from Namibia's only cancer hospital were included. Crude, age, and age + laboratory-adjusted ORs of receptor status were analyzed using logistic regression, and age-incidence curves were analyzed using Poisson regression. RESULTS: A total of 10,047 (81%) women had known ER status. Ranking of subtypes was consistent across races: ER(+)/PR(+)HER2(-) was most common (race-specific percentage range, 54.6%-64.8%), followed by triple-negative (17.4%-21.9%), ER(+)/PR(+)HER2(+) (9.6%-13.9%), and ER(-)PR(-)HER2(+) (7.8%-10.9%). Percentages in black versus white women were 33.8% [95% confidence (CI), 32.5-35.0] versus 26.0% (24.0-27.9) ER(-); 20.9% (19.7-22.1) versus 17.5% (15.4-19.6) triple-negative; and 10.7% (9.8-11.6) versus 7.8% (6.3-9.3) ER(-)PR(-)HER2(+). Indian/Asian and mixed-ancestry women had intermediate values. Age-incidence curves had similar shapes across races: rates increased by 12.7% per year (12.2-13.1) across ER subtypes under the age of 50 years, and thereafter slowed for ER(+) (1.95%) and plateaued for ER(-) disease (-0.1%). CONCLUSIONS: ER(+) breast cancer dominates in all Southern African races, but black women have a modest excess of aggressive subtypes. IMPACT: On the basis of the predominant receptor-defined breast tumors in Southern Africa, improving survival for the growing breast cancer burden should be achievable through earlier diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
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