How does breast cancer affect Black women?
More progress needs to be made to improve outcomes for Black women with breast cancer. Here’s how BCRF investigators are addressing the challenge.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by breast cancer. Founded in 1980, BCRF funds research into prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer, while promoting programs aimed at reducing health disparities facing African Americans. As part of the organization’s efforts to reduce breast cancer mortality rates among black women, researchers are focusing on developing personalized medicine strategies for patients with aggressive forms of the disease.
In the US:
Breast Cancer Mortality Rate Is Highest Of Any Cancer In Women Between Age 20 And 59
By age 40, the chances of developing breast cancer are about one in eight. By age 50, it’s one in four. But while the average person spends her entire life waiting for breast cancer to strike, many don’t realize that there’s a difference between having a “risk” of getting breast cancer and actually being diagnosed with the disease.
The good news is that you can take steps to reduce your risk of breast cancer. There are three different types of breast cancers, and each type has a slightly different cause. Some people inherit a genetic predisposition towards certain types of breast cancer. Others develop the disease due to environmental factors like radiation exposure or hormone levels. Still others contract the disease because of lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, or eating too much red meat.
But whatever the cause, most experts agree that early detection is key to beating breast cancer. If caught early enough, the odds of survival are better. So what exactly does that mean? What are the symptoms? How do I know if something might be wrong?
Most often, a lump or thickening in the breast is the first sign that something isn’t quite right. This could be anything from a cyst to a tumor. Sometimes, though, lumps aren’t even visible – especially during menopause, when estrogen levels are low. Instead, some women experience changes in the texture or size of their breasts.
If you notice any unusual changes in your breasts, see your doctor immediately. You can find out more about how to recognize potential signs of breast cancer here.
The reason for racial disparities is largely driven by decades of structural racism leading to a higher risk of lower socioeconomic status.
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death among African Americans. But it doesn’t always present itself equally across races. In fact, black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to white men, according to the American Cancer Society. Why do some groups face greater risks of developing certain cancers and dying from those cancers? A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that socioeconomic disparities are associated with inequities in cancer screening rates, diagnosis, treatment, and survival.
Black women are less likely to receive mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests, even though they have similar odds of being diagnosed with breast, cervical, and ovarian cancers. They are also less likely to undergo surgery for colorectal cancer. And while they’re just as likely as whites to be diagnosed with lung and liver cancer, they’re much less likely to survive.
One possible explanation for these disparities is that many low-income populations lack adequate health coverage due to persistent systemic racism, which leads to unequal distribution of resources and access to quality healthcare. This is particularly true for African Americans, who tend to live in areas where there are fewer doctors and hospitals per capita.
Progress in reducing the prostate cancer death rate in Black men is slowing.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men.
Although prostate cancer is also the number one cancer diagnosis in white men, it accounts for nearly 40% of all new cases in black men. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in African Americans.
Since 1990, the death rate from prostate cancer has declined by more than half, falling from 81 deaths per 100,000 people in 1992 to 36 deaths per 100,000 by 2013.
However, the decline in death rate in black men has been slower than in white men. From 2010 through 2014, there was a steady annual drop of about 5%, but the trend slowed to a decline of just over 1% annually from 2015 through 2018.
That slowdown could be due to the increasing proportion of late stage diagnoses.
Black women are TWICE AS LIKELY to die from uterine cancer as White women and 41% MORE LIKELY to die from breast cancer, despite similar or lower incidence rates.
Overall, Black women have an eight percent lower incidence rate of cancer compared with White women. This includes lower rates of breast and lung cancer, but higher rates of stomach, liver and pancreatic cancer.
However, Black women have a twelve percent higher overall cancer death rate than white women. These disparities are largely due to the fact that black women are twice as likely to die from uterine corpus (uterine endometrial) cancer and 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. While both diseases have similar or lower incidence rates among black women, they have much worse outcomes.