Race Matter in Breast Cancer?
Background and Race Make a Difference
question has been appearing in scientific literature for at least the
past decade. The answer is always, "Yes, it does."
of breast cancer are difficult to pin down. What makes breast cancer so
much more terrible in women of color?
Are the tumors
more aggressive, the genes more prone to cancer, or the cultural or socio-economic
factors contributing to a lower survival rate?
referrals seem to be black and white
The contrast between African American and Caucasian women is found
in every index.
A study by
Columbia University School of Public Heath reported that physicians' recommendations
for mammography were different according to race.
If a white
physician had a predominantly black practice, mammography screening was
recommended only 7 percent of the time compared to the physician with
a white practice where mammography was suggested 23 percent of the time.
the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program revealed
that 48.4 per cent of screening mammograms provided in 1993 were for white
women while only 14.7 percent were for black women.
fewer black women contract breast cancer, 10 per cent are likely to have
breast cancer before 40 compared to 5 per cent of white women. Mammograms
are known to be less effective at catching tumors in younger women. The
studies suggest that African American women are 12 percent more likely
to have an initial diagnosis of a stage III or stage IV tumor.
Poverty, lack of health insurance and transportation as well as cultural
factors keep women from seeking treatment. This combination of factors
may help to explain why cancer is often diagnosed at later stages in women
is discovered the survival rate for black women is lower than for white
In 2001 the
American Cancer Society reported that mortality in blacks was 15 percent
higher than in whites. Only part of this difference can be attributed
to the later stage at diagnosis.
have suggested that the rate of obesity in black women may contribute
to these statistics. High levels of estrogen and high dietary fat intake
are related. This might account for the more aggressive behavior of tumors
in the African American woman.
report that cultural beliefs keep women from demanding adequate treatment.
Mistrust of clinical trials are linked to real abuses in the past, but
without taking part in research studies women are cut off from an important
of prayer may be strong, but using medical intervention to fight cancer
helps to create miracles.
we do to improve this picture?
Breast self exams and mammograms are more important for African American
woman than any other group.
If you are
used to eating a diet high in fats, it would be sensible to consider making
groups. Make sure that minority women are equally represented in clinical
studies, so more answers and better treatments can be found.
Be a personal
Let people in your community know the importance of early detection and
If you are
a health care provider, be aware of the physiological as well as the cultural
needs of your patient population. Don't add to the statistics that say
more white than black women are referred for mammograms.
against breast cancer has to include all of us in order to be a success.
updated March 30, 2006
on the Web:
Cancer : U.S. Racial/Ethnic Cancer Patterns
Cancer - Race & Ethnicity
Research Studies - Race / Ethnicity