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Educational level and characteristics of invasive breast cancer: findings from a French prospective cohort.

PURPOSE: Breast cancer (BC) characteristics are known to influence patients survival. Social differences have been reported by previous studies for those characteristics but questions persist because of inconsistent conclusions. We aimed to investigate the impact of education on BC stage, grade, and hormone receptor (HR) status, while adjusting for potential confounders including a broad set of health behaviors, anthropometric measures, and reproductive factors.

METHODS: In the French E3N cohort, 5236 women developed a primary invasive BC for which there was available information on stage, grade, and HR status. No multivariate analyses was performed for BC stage based on the lack of association in bivariate analyses. Odds ratios and confidence intervals were estimated using multinomial logistic regression models for BC grade or binomial logistic regression models for HR status of BC.

RESULTS: Women with a lower education were diagnosed with higher grade BC compared to women with a higher education (1.32 [1.12; 1.57]). This association was slightly attenuated after adjustment for covariates independently and more strongly affected in the fully adjusted model (1.20 [0.99; 1.45]). A significant association was observed between lower education and HR- status of BC (1.20 [1.02; 1.42]) attenuated after adjustment for age at first childbirth (1.12 [0.95; 1.33]).

CONCLUSION: In this cohort, education was associated with BC grade and HR status but not stage at diagnosis. The link between education and BC grade was not entirely explained by the different adjustments. A specific mechanism could be at play and deserves further investigations.

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