Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer
Since 1975 the five-year survival rate for breast cancer has increased significantly for both black and white women. Nonetheless, racial disparities in breast cancer remain. In the most recent period, the five-year relative survival rate was 81 percent for black women and 92 percent for white women. The racial disparity in survival reflects both later stage at diagnosis and poorer stage-specific survival in black women. A recent article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called "Patterns and Trends in Age-Specific Black-White Differences in Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality – United States, 1999–2014" speaks to the racial disparities in treatment and mortality.
Cause-specific survival, instead of relative survival is used to describe the cancer experience of racial and ethnic minorities because estimates of life expectancy are not available for most racial groups. Cause- specific survival is the probability of not dying of breast cancer within five years of diagnosis. Chinese and Japanese women (among Asians of known origin) have the highest breast cancer survival rates.
Intricate and interrelated factors contribute to the observed disparities in breast cancer incidence amid racial groups. According to 2010 U.S census data, over 25 percent of African Americans and Hispanics currently live in poverty, compared to 10 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Moreover, 20 percent of African Americans and 33 percent of Hispanics lack health insurance, while only 10 percent of white people are uninsured. According to the American Cancer Society, people living in poverty and those who lack health insurance are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage disease, more likely to receive substandard medical care and more likely to die from cancer. In addition to lack of health insurance, poverty and less education are also associated with lower breast cancer survival. Breast cancer patients who reside in lower-income areas have a lower five-year survival rate than those in higher-income areas at every stage of diagnosis.
A study released in late 2014, based on data from 2005 - 2014 researched Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality and suggested 5 ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer:
- Seek access to early detection programs and screening – Low-income, uninsured and under-insured women can visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast to find low-cost breast cancer screenings across the United States.
- Be knowledgeable of family and personal history
– If close relatives such as a mother, aunt or grandmother – or even male relatives – have had breast cancer, speak with a primary care doctor or OB/GYN about your specific risks and screening options.
- Reduce alcohol use – Regular consumption of one or more drinks a day for women is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight
– Staying healthy lowers the odds of getting breast cancer. Obesity and being overweight are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause.
- New moms who are able to breastfeed immediately after birth should try to do so – Doctors recommend new mothers should breastfeed for at least six months. After a woman gives birth, she has a slightly increased risk for developing breast cancer over the next five to ten years (known as pregnancy-associated breast cancer).