Why is Breast Cancer Different for Black Women?

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According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. An estimated 26,840 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African American women in 2011.

Between 2003-2007, the average annual breast cancer incidence rate in African American women was 114.7 cases per 100,000 women, which was 6% lower than in white women. HOWEVER, among younger women (under age 45), incidence rates are higher among African Americans than whites. This fact should be of particular interest to Black women, because even though it is well documented that more Black women are diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancer between age 26-40, most insurance companies do not cover annual mammograms until women reach age 40 (the age of diagnosis that is most prevalent among women of other races).

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Breast cancers diagnosed in African American women are more likely to have factors associated with poor prognosis, such as higher grade, distal stage, and negative hormone receptor status. Furthermore, premenopausal African American women appear to be at particular risk for basal-like breast cancer (i.e., triple-negative cancers), an aggressive subtype of breast cancer associated with shorter survival.

The American Cancer Society notes that a woman’s best overall preventive health strategy is to reduce her known risk factors as much as possible by avoiding weight gain and obesity (for postmenopausal breast cancer), engaging in regular physical activity, and minimizing alcohol intake. Women should consider the increased risk of breast cancer associated with combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy use when evaluating treatment options for menopausal symptoms.

Ladies, PLEASE be sure to do self breast exams and get to know your body so you'll know if/when any changes occur.

For more information related to Breast Cancer facts for Black women, check out Sisters Network, Inc. and the American Cancer Society

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