Why Do Black Women Die More From Breast Cancer?

    A woman  wearing a pink top looking forwardAfrican American women are 10% less likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but are almost 40% more likely to die from breast cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white women.

    New research may point to factors behind these numbers.

    According to several new studies presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, minority women who show higher incidence of moderate- to high-grade tumors are less likely to seek or receive follow-up radiation treatment. They and their families are slower to receive other types of health care as well.

    “Radiation treatment decreases the risk for breast cancer recurring and improves survival from the disease,” said Abigail Silva, MPH, Susan G. Komen Cancer Disparities Research trainee at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

    Prior studies have shown that black and Hispanic women are less likely than white women to obtain radiation treatment when eligible, and this may partly explain racial and ethnic disparities in breast cancer outcomes, according to Silva.

    “We also found that patients who got chemotherapy were less likely to get radiation when they needed it,” Silva said. “Because minorities tended to have more aggressive breast cancer that more often required chemotherapy, this disproportionately affected them.”

    Silva and colleagues gathered interview and medical record data from a study of patients with single invasive primary tumors, including 397 non-Hispanic whites, 411 non-Hispanic blacks and 181 Hispanics. Data indicated that minority women were less likely to get radiation treatment compared with non-Hispanic white women.

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