Commentary: Black Women Can Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Here's how Obamacare can help.

Posted: 09/28/2012 06:52 PM EDT

There are always ups and downs in life, and today is no different: A new study shows that going in for regular mammography screenings can help Black women close the breast cancer gap between themselves and their white counterparts.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that getting those mammograms has not been historically easy for Black women. Understanding how to make that easier should be of primary importance in America.

Here are the grim facts: Black women die from breast cancer at nearly twice the rates of white women. Doctors have long known that these mortality rates aren’t caused by biological differences between Black women and other women, so societal factors have to come into play. In the Washington Post this March, reporter Vanessa Williams looked at some of the social issues hurting African-Americans in their fight against breast cancer:

Poverty and racial inequities are the primary factors driving the disparity, according to a study released Wednesday at a breast cancer forum sponsored by the Avon Foundation. The study, which compared mortality rates between black and white women in the nation’s 25 largest cities, states that “nearly five black women die needlessly per day from breast cancer” because they don’t have information about the importance of breast screening and they don’t have access to high quality care.

There were some biological factors that came in to play, according to Williams, but they were mostly negligible when compared to the sociological factors. That’s both exciting and disheartening news, because it means that Black women don’t necessarily have to die of breast cancer a lot more than white women, and yet, they do.

Someone certainly aware of these problems is Barack Obama, who made sure that his Affordable Care Act would require insurance companies to cover a variety of preventative care procedures, including mammography screenings every one to two years for women over 40. That coverage requirement doesn’t mean that more Black women will hear about the importance of screenings, but it does help mitigate the financial barriers preventing certain women from seeking that service.

Of course, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both said that if they’re elected, they plan on repealing Obama’s health care overhaul. If they do, we’re back to square one when it comes to helping prevent breast cancer deaths in Black women. Then again, something tells me Black women with breast cancer aren’t at the forefront of those men’s minds.


These views do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Times-Picayune /Landov)

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