Study Finds Black Women in Houston Have Higher Death Rates From Breast Cancer Than City’s White Women
Black women in Houston, Texas, have a 45% greater mortality rate from breast cancer than white women, according to a new study, the Houston Chronicle reports (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 2/4).
The study was presented at the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum, which took place this month in Houston. Steve Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, led the study, which is similar to research he did on black women and breast cancer in Chicago (Avon Foundation release, 2/5).
According to the Houston study, for every 100,000 women, 40.8 black women and 28.2 white women died from breast cancer in 2004. In 2000, 34.3 black women and 30.4 white women for every 100,000 women died from breast cancer.
Whitman said that the study suggests that the disparity is related to access to care, including mammography and treatment. He added, "The racial disparity in breast cancer mortality rates in Houston, like elsewhere, is a symptom of a broken health care system. The system delivers the benefits of recent advances in breast cancer treatment to white women, but not black women."
In response to the study's findings, local health experts are starting a task force, which will study the issue for about a year and then issue recommendations. The task force also will decide whether to expand the study to look at death rates from breast cancer among Asians and Hispanics, according to task force leader Lovell Jones, director of the Center for Research on Minority Health at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Jones said, "Knowing the city, I expected these sort of figures. I'm more curious about what's accounted for the fluctuations in the rates over the years" (Houston Chronicle, 2/4).
The study's findings "provide another red flag for the consequences of lack of health insurance" and highlights a "continuing crisis in Houston metropolitan area medical care because of record numbers of uninsured adults and children," the Houston Chronicle states in an editorial. The editorial continues that Whitman "believes a main cause of the higher death rates is likely to be differences in the quality of treatment received by the two groups" because of a lack of insurance. "Higher breast cancer mortality among black women in Houston is just one of a host of unacceptable costs associated with low health insurance coverage," according to the Chronicle. Lack of insurance also "affects everything from infant mortality rates to underuse of preventative treatments such as vaccinations," the editorial states. The Chronicle concludes, "One obvious solution is expanding health insurance coverage so that the many millions of Americans who now are not covered by any plan have access to coverage," especially in Texas, "which has the highest number of uninsured in the country" (Houston Chronicle, 2/6).