Breast Cancer Studies Take Aim at Racial Disparities

Researchers want to better understand why Black women are more likely to die from this disease.

The National Cancer Institute has awarded, in total, $19.3 million to a group of researchers to explore racial disparities in breast cancer in the U.S.


And this funding is urgently needed: African-American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, we are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and at a later stage, and have more aggressive features associated with poor prognosis. As to why this is the case remains a mystery to researchers.


This project is a collaborative effort between many researchers from around the U.S., which include four studies: The Women’s Circle of Health Study, the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, the Black Women’s Health Study and the Multiethnic Cohort Study. In total, these studies will examine 5,500 women with breast cancer and 5,500 women without cancer — the largest study to date on this type of research.


Central reported:


Through interviews with study volunteers, investigators are gathering demographic and medical information, as well as reproductive, lifestyle and diet histories. Saliva and tumor samples are collected for molecular analyses. Through the evaluation of these potential risk factors, the researchers hope to determine how they relate to the early development of breast cancer in the African-American population.


“Previous breast cancer studies comparing African-American to Caucasian women have been generally based on too few African-American women to understand any differences,” said  [Dr. Elisa] Bandera, who also is an associate professor of epidemiology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “Most studies of breast cancer have been conducted in Caucasian women. Therefore, there is great need for studies like this, focusing on African-American women and with large enough numbers to be able to study the rare breast cancer subtypes, which tend to be more common in African-American women.”


The angles that researchers are taking are eye-opening — they are looking at obesity and breast cancer rates.


"The findings so far are provocative: Among women with breast cancer, 52 percent of blacks in the study were obese, compared with 26 percent of whites," NewsOK reported.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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