Washington, Feb 13 : Improvement in breast cancer treatments may have increased the survival rate among women but a recent study has revealed that the older women are at a greater risk of death from non-cancer causes than the breast cancer.
The team of researchers led by Judith-Anne Chapman, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group followed over 5,000 women out of which 256 participants died during the trial.
They studied whether factors, such as pre-existing diseases, could be associated with the risk of death from breast cancer, other cancers, or causes other than cancer.
The findings revealed that non-breast cancer deaths were more common than deaths from breast cancer and older women were more likely to die of other causes.
While 60 percent of women in the trial died of causes not related to breast cancer, this figure jumped to 72 percent among women 70 years and older.
Moreover, women with pre-existing heart disease were more likely to die of non-cancer causes and women with pre-existing osteoporosis were at greater risk of dying from cancers other than breast cancer.
"Routine use of screening mammography and improved therapeutic management of breast cancer...will mean that more women will survive breast cancer to older ages, at which they might have a higher risk of death from causes other than breast cancer," wrote the authors.
Dr Sharon Giordano and Dr Gabriel Hortobagyi of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston believe that it is necessary to consider a patient's pre-existing health problems before providing treatment options.
The study appears in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.