In a major US study, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found that Indian and Pakistani women are diagnosed with breast cancer, including more aggressive forms of the disease, at a younger age.
The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, examined the characteristics of breast cancer in Indian- and Pakistani-American and non-Hispanic white women in the US.
"Our results provide an insight into breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women, suggesting several hypotheses to guide future scientific studies to better understand the risk factors," said study author Jaya M Satagopan from the Rutgers University in the US.
The researchers reviewed incidence data among Indian and Pakistani women between 1990 and 2014.
They also reviewed disease characteristics, treatment and survival data between 2000 and 2016 for 4,900 Indian and Pakistani women and 482,250 non-Hispanic white women with breast cancer.
They found that the occurrence of breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women was lower than in non-Hispanic white women; however, the number of Indian and Pakistani women diagnosed with breast cancer increased over the years.
Indian and Pakistani women with breast cancer were more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and at more advanced stages of the disease.
In addition, they received more subcutaneous or total mastectomies than non-Hispanic white women.
While the researchers found that Indian and Pakistani women were less likely to die of breast cancer than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, their health was tracked for a shorter time.
Prior cancer research has shown that fewer Indian and Pakistani women participate in scientific studies and that several socio-cultural factors may delay their seeking health care.
Research also has shown poor mammogram screening rates in Indian and Pakistani women, which is linked to a lack of family support, beliefs that cancer is divine punishment for past deeds, having lived in the US for less than 10 years, low English proficiency and a lack of faith in the health system.
The study indicated that there are important differences in this population that justify further studies to better understand biological, sociocultural, and system-level factors such as interactions with the health system, affecting breast cancer screening patterns.
"As the South Asian population grows, it is imperative that we work to promote health equity in cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment through community engagement and a team science approach," said study author Anita Kinney.