With Breast Cancer, Black Women Still Lag

Published October 1, 2009

The good news pertaining to breast cancer continues to elude the Black community.

That’s not to say that there isn’t something positive to report about the overall effects of the deadly disease. In 2009 alone, for example, some 15,000 fewer people died from breast cancer, the American Cancer Society estimates.

However, even though breast cancer rates continued to drop slightly over the past decade, African-American women are still 40 percent more likely than their White counterparts to die from the disease, according to the society. And, despite the fact that fewer White women are getting diagnosed with breast cancer, rates have remained stable among African-Americans.

"While there is much to celebrate in the fight against cancer, this report is also a strong reminder that far too many women still die of breast cancer," Dr. Elizabeth "Terry" T.H. Fontham, ACS’s national volunteer president, says. "We need to make sure all women have access to information to help them reduce their risk and to resources to ensure early detection and the best possible treatment."

Nearly a quarter-million women will be told they have breast cancer this year, and more than 40,000 women will die of the disease, ACS projects. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. women after skin cancer.

The study found that: Black women in New Mexico had the fewest instances of breast cancer – 60.9 cases per 100,000 women; White women in Hawaii had the highest breast cancer rate, with 139.1 cases per 100,000 women; the state with the highest breast cancer rate for African-American women is Kentucky, with 127.3 cases per 100,000 women.

Also, the report found, even though White women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a higher rate than Black women, they have a lower death rate. In Hawaii, White women die at a rate of 21.7 per 100,000, compared with a death rate of 27.3 in New Jersey. Among African-American women, the death rate ranges range from 20.9 in Rhode Island to 40.0 in Louisiana.” In national terms, 90 percent of White women survive at least five years after diagnosis, compared with but only 78 percent of Black women who survive that long.

Written by Ed Wiley III

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