African-American women have historically been less likely than white women to get breast cancer, but that distinction has now disappeared, according to a surprising new report by the American Cancer Society. While incidence rates have been stable for white women since 2004, the rate for African-American women started to move around 2012 — from between 119 and 125 per 100,000 women to 135 — the same incidence rate as white women. “It’s been known that white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but black women are more likely to die from it,” said Carol E. DeSantis, senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, who lead the report. “Now what happens? Now the incidence rates are similar, and black women are still more likely to die from it. Our conclusion is that the widening mortality disparity is likely to continue, especially now in light of the increasing incidence.”
The reasons behind the rise are complex, say researchers. Earlier detection might be a small contributing factor, but they also believe that rising obesity rates among African-American women are a factor, as well as changes in reproductive patterns (as they delay childbirth and have fewer children), which are all recognized risk factors. In general, the report shows that black women are disadvantaged in every way compared to white women, as a black woman given a breast cancer diagnosis is 42 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman. This racial divide in breast cancer mortality can be attributed to a complex host of factors, including disparities in quality of care and lower rates of follow-up, while cultural distrust of doctors and lower insurance rates possibly play a role as well.
Read the full story at The New York Times.