This study looked at breast cancer in women treated at Eastern Health in Victoria. Information on Australian Chinese women was separated and compared with information on the remaining patients.
The study found that Australian Chinese women diagnosed with breast cancer are generally younger, approximately six years younger than the comparison group (57 years compared with 63 years). This agrees with overseas research where the average age of diagnosis for Chinese women varied from 40 years to 53 years across different countries. However, overall the research is unclear on the relative risk of cancer by age for Chinese Australian Women and how age then affects outcomes from breast cancer.
Australian Chinese women were also less likely to be diagnosed with Luminal A tumours (only 25% compared with 64% of the comparison group). Luminal A is a category of tumour and is the tumour type with the best predicted outcome and the highest rate of survival.
Possible reasons for the differences found could include diet and lifestyle, as well as body mass index (BMI). Previous research has suggested that breast cancer diagnoses increase in East Asian countries as Western diet and lifestyle changes become more common. Asian populations have also been shown to have a lower BMI compared with Caucasians, and high BMI has been linked to increased risk of Luminal A tumours.
This study showed no difference in choice of breast conserving surgery over mastectomy between Chinese Australian women and the comparison group. Previous overseas studies have shown a higher preference for mastectomy in Asian American and Hong Kong women. The results here may reflect a change in the way breast cancer is seen in the Australian Chinese community through immersion in Australian culture.
The authors of this study recommend that Chinese patients be offered screening programmes earlier to allow for earlier diagnosis and therefore improve outcomes. Language barriers should also be addressed, as well as improving knowledge around breast cancer with these patients and how they view treatment.