For decades breast cancer was more prevalent among white women than black women, but a new study shows that in 2012 those rates converged. The research, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, found that not only are black women just as likely to develop the disease, they are 42 percent more likely to die from it.
During the period of 2008 through 2012, breast cancer rates were higher for black women in seven southern states, but remained lower in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The study found that black women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive subtype, with an often fatal prognosis. Compared to other ethnic and racial groups, black women are diagnosed after the disease has progressed and have the lowest survival rate at each stage of the diagnosis.
The report offers up a number of possible explanations for why breast cancer is on the rise among black women. Reasons ranged from higher obesity rates (58 percent of black women are obese, compared to 33 percent of white women), to having fewer children and having them later in life. Other research suggests that the health care system may be to blame – citing disparities in access to competent and comprehensive medical care.
While there are no concrete answers to explain the increase in breast cancer and higher fatality rates among black women, we do know that mammograms save lives, regardless of race or ethnicity. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, there is a 96 percent survival rate when breast cancer is found early—which is one more reason to schedule your mammogram today.