Race Factors into Breast Cancer Treatment

Published Online: Monday, September 1, 2003

    Racial disparity has been shown to affect breast cancer treatment in women. Results of a recent study reported in Cancer found significantly lower stage-specific survival rates for African-American women under the age of 50 even when the type and stage of breast cancer were identical to those of Caucasians.

    Barbara Krimgold, director of the health disparities project at the Center for the Advancement of Health, lists socioeconomic status, racism, access to insurance, and health care and treatment as factors in why African-American women have higher mortality rates from breast cancer, although Caucasian women have a greater incidence.

    The study researchers based their conclusions on breast cancer data from the National Cancer Institute?s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. They compared the survival rates in African-American and Caucasian women at specific stages of breast cancer and according to estrogen receptor (ER) status. In general, African-American women had lower 6-year survival rates for each stage of breast cancer. For example, women under the age of 50 with ER-positive cancers had much lower 6-year survival rates. On the other hand, clinical trials have shown that when both groups receive the same treatment for their type of breast cancer, they have similar survival rates.

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