Mortality after breast cancer as a function of time since diagnosis by estrogen receptor status and age at diagnosis Academic Article uri icon


  • Our aim was to estimate how long-term mortality following breast cancer diagnosis depends on age at diagnosis, tumor estrogen receptor (ER) status, and the time already survived. We used the population-based Australian Breast Cancer Family Study which followed-up 1,196 women enrolled during 1992-1999 when aged <60 years at diagnosis with a first primary invasive breast cancer, over-sampled for younger ages at diagnosis, for whom tumor pathology features and ER status were measured. There were 375 deaths (median follow-up = 15.7; range = 0.8-21.4, years). We estimated the mortality hazard as a function of time since diagnosis using a flexible parametric survival analysis with ER status a time-dependent covariate. For women with ER-negative tumors compared with those with ER-positive tumors, 5-year mortality was initially higher (p < 0.001), similar if they survived to 5 years (p = 0.4), and lower if they survived to 10 years (p = 0.02). The estimated mortality hazard for ER-negative disease peaked at ~3 years post-diagnosis, thereafter declined with time, and at 7 years post-diagnosis became lower than that for ER-positive disease. This pattern was more pronounced for women diagnosed at younger ages. Mortality was also associated with lymph node count (hazard ratio (HR) per 10 nodes = 2.52 [95% CI:2.11-3.01]) and tumor grade (HR per grade = 1.62 [95% CI:1.34-1.96]). The risk of death following a breast cancer diagnosis differs substantially and qualitatively with diagnosis age, ER status and time survived. For women who survive >7 years, those with ER-negative disease will on average live longer, and more so if younger at diagnosis.


  • Jayasekara, Harindra
  • MacInnis, RJ
  • Chamberlain, JA
  • Dite, GS
  • Leoce, NM
  • Dowty, JG
  • Bickerstaffe, A
  • Win, AK
  • Milne, RL
  • Giles, GG
  • Terry, MB
  • Eccles, DM
  • Southey, MC
  • Hopper, JL

publication date

  • 2019