TUESDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Older women with breast cancer are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and other causes than from their cancer, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 60,000 women in the United States, aged 66 and older, who were followed for at least 12 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

By the end of the follow-up period, nearly half of the women were still alive. Those who died lived to an average age of 83 and more than two-thirds of them died from causes other than breast cancer. In fact, cardiovascular disease killed more of the women than breast cancer.

Women who were most likely to die of breast cancer included those who were diagnosed at a younger age and those with a high tumor grade or estrogen receptor-negative status.

The pattern seen among the women in the study matches the pattern for women in the general population, where cardiovascular disease is the leading killer, the researchers said.

The study appears June 21 in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

"Cancer is a big killer and is responsible for about a quarter of all deaths. However, breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence and patients need to take care of their health to reduce their risk of dying from heart disease and other age-related diseases," study author Jennifer Patnaik, of the University of Colorado, said in a journal news release.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast cancer.