Causes of death among women with breast cancer: A follow-up study of 50 481 women with breast cancer in Finland

Sushmita Katuwal, Pekka Jousilahti, Eero Pukkala

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Our study aims to assess mortality from causes other than breast cancer among women with breast cancer with focus on indications of joint aetiology. Data on female breast cancer patients were obtained from the Finnish Cancer Registry and their underlying causes of death in 54 categories from the Statistics Finland. Standardised mortality ratios (SMR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for 50 481 patients diagnosed between 1971 and 2000 and followed until December 2012, stratified by histology, age at diagnosis and time since diagnosis. The expected numbers of deaths were based on respective mortality rates among the Finnish general population. Hazard ratio (HR) was estimated from Poisson regression model to compare risks of cause of death by histology. 41% of 30 841 deaths were due to causes other than breast cancer. Significant excess mortality was observed for stomach cancer (SMR 1.43, 95% CI 1.26-1.62), circulatory system diseases (SMR 1.17, 95% CI 1.14-1.20) and suicide (SMR 1.51, 95% CI 1.28-1.78). In an age-adjusted analysis, significantly higher relative risk of stomach cancer mortality was observed for lobular vs ductal subtype (HR 2.00, 95% CI 1.32-3.02). Significantly increased SMRs were observed for cancers of respiratory organs among premenopausal women, and for other respiratory system diseases, dementia and Alzheimer disease among postmenopausal women. We conclude that female breast cancer patients are at increased risk of death from causes other than the breast cancer diagnosis including circulatory and respiratory system diseases and cancer of stomach, ovary and respiratory systems. The excess mortality because of different causes varies based on menopausal status and histology. There might be shared aetiological factors between the diagnosis of breast cancer and the causes of death among these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-845
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • aetiology
  • breast cancer
  • cause of death
  • risk factors
  • SMR

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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