Keloids may be associated with an increased risk breast cancer, particularly among African Americans, a new study suggests.

The research team hypothesized African American women with a history of keloids would reflect a population of breast cancer patients with aggressive tumors and poor outcomes. Medical record review of 13,033 patients with scar codes in the Henry Ford Health System electronic health record, between 2005-2015 was conducted.

Of these patients, 255 also had a concurrent breast cancer diagnosis. Of this group of 255 patients with a breast cancer diagnosis, 102 had a confirmed history of keloids and 152 did not have keloids. Using this patient cohort, the researchers conducted a multivariate analysis to identify associations between breast cancer related clinical factors, and keloid status.

The researchers found a race-specific age association, with African American patients displaying significantly younger ages at breast cancer diagnosis in keloid-positive patients, average age 52-years-old, versus keloid-negative patients, average age 58-years-old. In addition, keloid patients had a larger percentage of late-stage breast cancers (11.7 percent versus 4.8 percent). The group hypothesizes that ethnic variations in tumor immune response may underlie their unique cancer risk.

“It is well-documented that keloids and certain aggressive breast cancer such as triple negative and inflammatory types disproportionately affect African American Women,” says Lamont  R Jones, M.D., MBA, vice chair for the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Mich., and principal investigator of this study, in a news release. “We need to better understand how immune-related differences, specific to African Americans, result in more aggressive types of cancer. While the results of this study are preliminary, we believe further investigating a possible link between breast cancer and keloids may provide more insight.”

The study is being presented at the Triological Society’s Combined Section Meeting Jan. 24-26 in Coronado, California.