The rates of breast-conserving surgery have increased over the last 2 decades among women with early-stage breast cancers in the United States, but disparities persist, based on an analysis of data from the National Cancer Data Base.

The rate of breast-conserving surgery has risen from approximately 54% in 1998 to 60% in 2011, but this rate may have been affected by “technical advances and changes in societal norms [that] include genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation, advances in reconstruction techniques, breast magnetic resonance imaging, and increased patient interest in contralateral prophylactic mastectomy,” Dr. Meeghan Lautner and her colleagues at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Care Center, Houston, wrote.

“Among the most encouraging findings from our analysis is the considerable improvement of disparities based on facility type and the options afforded to older populations … however, insurance, income, and travel distance to treatment facilities persist as key barriers to [breast-conserving therapy] use,” the researchers said.

Their analysis of a cohort of 727,927 women, published online June 17 in JAMA Surgery, showed that women with early breast cancer were less likely to receive breast-conserving surgery if they had a low educational level, public or no health insurance, and low income.

Women aged 52-61 years were 14% more likely to be treated with breast-conserving surgery, compared with younger women. White race, fewer comorbidities, and living closer to a treatment facility were all positively associated with being treated with breast-conserving surgery.

Those in southern regions of the United States were significantly less likely to receive breast-conserving surgery, compared with those in the Northeast. The researchers said their data suggest the lower rates are because of the greater travel distances to treatment facilities in the South.

Women with no insurance were 25% less likely than those with private insurance to have breast-conserving therapy (JAMA Surgery 2015 June 17 [ doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.1102 ]).

The researchers declared no conflicts of interest.