Age/race differences in HER2 testing and in incidence rates for breast cancer triple subtypes: a population-based study and first report

Mary Jo Lund, Ebonee N Butler, Brionna Y Hair, Kevin C Ward, Judy H Andrews, Gabriella Oprea-Ilies, A Rana Bayakly, Ruth M O'Regan, Paula M Vertino, J William Eley
Cancer 2010 June 1, 116 (11): 2549-59

BACKGROUND: Although US year 2000 guidelines recommended characterizing breast cancers by human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), national cancer registries do not collect HER2, rendering a population-based understanding of HER2 and clinical "triple subtypes" (estrogen receptor [ER] / progesterone receptor [PR] / HER2) largely unknown. We document the population-based prevalence of HER2 testing / status, triple subtypes and present the first report of subtype incidence rates.

METHODS: Medical records were searched for HER2 on 1842 metropolitan Atlanta females diagnosed with breast cancer during 2003-2004. HER2 testing/status and triple subtypes were analyzed by age, race/ethnicity, tumor factors, socioeconomic status, and treatment. Age-adjusted incidence rates were calculated.

RESULTS: Over 90% of cases received HER2 testing: 12.6% were positive, 71.7% negative, and 15.7% unknown. HER2 testing compliance was significantly better for women who were younger, of Caucasian or African-American descent, or diagnosed with early stage disease. Incidence rates (per 100,000) were 21.1 for HER2+ tumors and 27.8 for triple-negative tumors, the latter differing by race (36.3 and 19.4 for black and white women, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: HER2 recommendations are not uniformly adhered to. Incidence rates for breast cancer triple subtypes differ by age/race. As biologic knowledge is translated into the clinical setting eg, HER2 as a biomarker, it will be incumbent upon national cancer registries to report this information. Incidence rates cautiously extrapolate to an annual burden of 3000 and 17,000 HER2+ tumors for black and white women, respectively, and triple-negative tumors among 5000 and 16,000 respectively. Testing, rate, and burden variations warrant population-based in-depth exploration and clinical translation.

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