Black women impacted more by breast cancer

Breast cancer month

Merdies Hayes | 10/3/2013, midnight | Updated on 10/7/2013, 4:46 p.m.
The statistics are alarming. They have been for a generation. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight (or ...

Breast Cancer by the numbers

According to a 2010 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women.

In 2010, the CDC found that breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for African American women aged 45-64 years.

The report also found that the breast cancer death rate for women aged 45-64 years was 60 percent higher for Black women than White women or, 56.8 and 36.6 deaths per 100,000 women respectively.

The statistics are alarming. They have been for a generation. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight (or 232,000 American women) will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month beginning this week, it is estimated that more than 40,000 women will die from the disease this year with African American women posting a heavy share of these losses.

The American Cancer Society reported last year that Black women have the highest mortality rate at 36.6 percent per 100,000 American women diagnosed with the disease. This is compared to 22.9 percent (out of every 100,000 women) overall across the nation.

The Cancer Action Network found last month that the five-year relative survival rate is 98 percent when breast cancer is detected at an early stage, but only 24 percent for late-stage cancer. Although breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among American women, the percentage of people dying from the disease is said to be in decline.

Not so for Black women.

A report last winter by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga., notes there are persistent large gaps between Black and White women in terms of mortality and stage of cancer at diagnosis. Based on data collected from 2005-2009, African American women, the report found, were 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. The report also revealed that Black women have a lower incidence of breast cancer (based on the nation’s population), but are more likely to succumb from the disease than any other racial or ethnic group. An additional study conducted in July by the American Medical Association indicated that when researchers compared the Black breast cancer patients with White patients who had similar demographic characteristics as well as similar tumors, the survival gap dropped considerably among African Americans.

“Most of the difference is explained by poorer health of Black patients at diagnosis, with more advanced disease, worse biological features of the disease, and more ‘comorbid’ (presence of one or more disorders in addition to a primary disease) conditions,” the report found. The study also revealed that African American women died more frequently because they were more likely to have other health conditions. Obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease among Black women were found to be fatal contributors when paired with cancer. Research teams at CDC found that 26 percent of the Black patients had diabetes when diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 15.3 percent of White women.