breast cancer survival; breast cancer mortality; racial disparities; social networks; neighborhood context; African American


Epidemiology | Medicine and Health | Women's Health



This study attempts to clarify the associations between macro-social and social network factors and continuing racial disparities in breast cancer survival. The study improves on prior methodologies by using a neighborhood disadvantage measure that assesses both economic and social disadvantage and an ego-network measurement tool that assesses key social network characteristics. Our population-based sample included 786 breast cancer patients (nHWhite=388; nHBlack=398) diagnosed during 2005-2008 in Chicago, IL. The data included census-derived macro-social context, self-reported social network, self-reported demographic and medically abstracted health measures. Mortality data from the National Death Index (NDI) were used to determine 5-year survival.

Based on our findings, neighborhood concentrated disadvantage was negatively associated with survival among nHBlack and nHWhite breast cancer patients. In unadjusted models, social network size, network density, practical support, and financial support were positively associated with 5-year survival. However, in adjusted models only practical support was associated with 5-year survival. Our findings suggest that the association between network size and breast cancer survival is sensitive to scaling of the network measure, which helps to explain inconsistencies in past findings. Social networks of nHWhites and nHBlacks differed in size, social support dimensions, network density, and geographic proximity. Among social factors, residence in disadvantaged neighborhoods and unmet practical support explained some of the racial disparity in survival. Differences in late stage diagnosis and comorbidities between nHWhites and nHBlacks also explained some of the racial disparity in survival.

Our findings highlight the relevance of social factors, both macro and inter-personal in the racial disparity in breast cancer survival. Findings suggest that reduced survival of nHBlack women is in part due to low social network resources and residence in socially and economically deprived neighborhoods. Our findings indicate that, to improve survival among breast cancer patients, policies need to focus on continued improvement of access to care and reduction of racially patterned social and economic hardship. Additionally, our findings support the need for health care providers to assess social support resources of breast cancer patients at the time of diagnosis.

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Revised Manuscript

JHDRP Cover Letter_081018.docx (14 kB)
Cover Letter