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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Breast Cancer Especially Hard on Younger Women

Women aged 18-44 with a history of breast cancer reported a lower health-related quality of life than older survivors, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

New faculty and doctoral student portraits for the George Warren Brown School of Social Work Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 at Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo © Whitney Curtis)
[Photo: Dr. Derek Brown]

The study, led by Dr. Derek Brown, assistant professor at the Brown School, was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Brown and his colleagues analyzed data from the 2009 and 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The sample included 218,852 women; 7,433 had a history of breast cancer and 18,577 had histories of other cancers. A health-related quality of life was estimated using survey questions and a mapping algorithm.

For younger women, the effect of breast cancer on quality of life was 70 percent greater than that of other cancers.

“One possibility to explain these results is that younger women are nearer to peak childbearing ages, so they are more concerned about fertility implications of treatment,” Dr. Brown said. “Even if the treatments have the same physical impact across ages, the stress and mental health impacts may be larger for younger women, and show up as larger impacts on health-related quality of life.”

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