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BackgroundThere is an urgent need to improve breast cancer survival in sub-Saharan Africa. Geospatial barriers delay diagnosis and treatment, but their effect on survival in these settings is not well understood. We examined geospatial disparities in 4-year survival in the African Breast Cancer-Disparities in Outcomes cohort.MethodsIn this prospective cohort study, women (aged ≥18 years) newly diagnosed with breast cancer were recruited from eight hospitals in Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. They reported sociodemographic information in interviewer-administered questionnaires, and their clinical and treatment data were collected from medical records. Vital status was ascertained by contacting participants or their next of kin every 3 months. The primary outcome was all-cause mortality in relation to rural versus urban residence, straight-line distance, and modelled travel time to hospital, analysed using restricted mean survival time, Cox proportional hazards, and flexible parametric survival models.Findings2228 women with breast cancer were recruited between Sept 8, 2014, and Dec 31, 2017. 127 were excluded from analysis (58 had potentially recurrent cancer, had previously received treatment, or had no follow-up; 14 from minority ethnic groups with small sample sizes; and 55 with missing geocoded home addresses). Among the 2101 women included in analysis, 928 (44%) lived in a rural area. 1042 patients had died within 4 years of diagnosis; 4-year survival was 39% (95% CI 36-42) in women in rural areas versus 49% (46-52) in urban areas (unadjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1·24 [95% CI 1·09-1·40]). Among the 734 women living more than 1 h from the hospital, the crude 4-year survival was 37% (95% CI 32-42) in women in rural areas versus 54% (46-62) in women in urban areas (HR 1·35 [95% CI 1·07-1·71] after adjustment for age, stage, and treatment status). Among women in rural areas, mortality rates increased with distance (adjusted HR per 50 km 1·04, 1·01-1·07) and travel time (adjusted HR per h 1·06, 1·02-1·10). Among women with early-stage breast cancer receiving treatment, women in rural areas had a strong survival disadvantage (overall HR 1·54, 1·14-2·07 adjusted for age and stage; >1 h distance adjusted HR 2·14, 1·21-3·78).InterpretationGeospatial barriers reduce survival of patients with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. Specific attention is needed to support patients with early-stage breast cancer living in rural areas far from cancer treatment facilities.FundingUS National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute), Susan G Komen for the Cure, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Original publication





The Lancet. Global health

Publication Date



Environment and Lifestyle Epidemiology Branch, International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO, Lyon, France.