Black Women Develop Breast Cancer at Earlier Ages, Have Higher Mortality Rates Than Other Women, Study Finds
Although black women are one-third less likely than women of other races to develop cancer, they are 30% more likely than other women to die if they are diagnosed with the disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, the Miami Herald reports. For the study, Leonidas Koniaris, a surgical oncologist at the University of Miami Medical School's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues looked at data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida Cancer Data System that included information on 63,472 patients. Researchers found that among women with breast cancer:
- 72.1% of blacks were diagnosed before age 65, compared with 50.3% of non-Hispanic whites;
- At the time cancer was found it had spread to other parts of the body in 5.9% of blacks, compared with 3.1% of other women;
- The likelihood of finding breast cancer in black women at age 33 is the same as in finding it in white women at age 40; and
- Participants in the lowest socioeconomic category were treated less frequently with surgery and had a lower five-year survival rate.
Researchers said that poverty and cultural issues might prevent black women from receiving the latest, most-effective treatments. Koniaris said that genetics might in part explain why black women get breast cancer at a younger age. He called for public awareness campaigns to alert black women of their risks and better testing and earlier diagnoses among the group.
'Current screening guidelines are not sufficient in detecting breast cancer in African-American patients because the disease has already developed in so many of these women by age 40,' he said (Tasker, Miami Herald, 5/12).
An abstract of the study is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.