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Diabetes and breast cancer mortality in Black women



Breast cancer mortality is higher in Black women than in White women. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is also higher, yet data on whether diabetes affects breast cancer mortality in this population are lacking. We investigated the relation of diabetes at the time of breast cancer diagnosis to breast cancer mortality in the Black Women’s Health Study, a prospective cohort study.


1,621 Black women with invasive breast cancer diagnosed in 1995–2013 were followed by mailed questionnaires and searches of the National Death Index. Multivariable Cox regression analysis was used to compute hazard ratios (HRs) for diabetes in relation to breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality, with adjustment for age, stage, treatment modality, estrogen receptor (ER) status, and body mass index.


There were 368 deaths during follow-up, of which 273 were due to breast cancer. Breast cancer mortality was significantly increased in women who had been diagnosed with diabetes at least 5 years before breast cancer occurrence, HR 1.86 (95% CI 1.20–2.89), with elevations observed for both ER+ and ER− breast cancer. All-cause mortality was also higher in diabetics, with HRs of 1.54 (95% CI 1.12–2.07) overall and 2.26 (95% CI 1.62–3.15) for ≥5-year duration of diabetes relative to non-diabetics.


Our results present the first solid evidence of a positive association of type 2 diabetes with breast cancer mortality in Black women. Given the higher prevalence and earlier onset of type 2 diabetes in Black women, it is likely that diabetes contributes to racial disparities in breast cancer mortality.

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We acknowledge the continued commitment of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) participants. We also acknowledge the dedication and support of the BWHS data collection staff. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, or the National Institutes of Health. Data on breast cancer pathology were obtained from several state cancer registries (AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, NC, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA), and results reported do not necessarily represent their views.

Financial support

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute grants R01 CA058420 (LR), UM1 CA164974 (LR, JRP), P01 CA151135 (JRP), and U01 CA182898 (GVD, JRP); the Boston Medical Center Carter Disparity Endowment (MC); and the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant IRG-72-001-36-IRG (MC).

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Correspondence to Marjory Charlot.

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Charlot, M., Castro-Webb, N., Bethea, T.N. et al. Diabetes and breast cancer mortality in Black women. Cancer Causes Control 28, 61–67 (2017).

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  • Black women
  • Diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Mortality