Black women are six times more likely than White women to develop tumors that lead to breast cancer. Do genetically-based racial differences play a role?

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Credit: Black Enterprise
Credit: Black Enterprise

Compared with white women, Black women are 40% more likely to die of the disease, and twice as likely if they are older than 50, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Those grim statistics are often blamed on the fact that Black women tend to be diagnosed at a later stage of the disease, said Dr. Julia Blanter, a resident at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, in New York City.

But in the new study, she and her colleagues found that later-stage diagnosis did not fully explain Black women’s risk of distant metastases.

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Obstacles in “access to and receipt of guideline-concordant treatment” likely contributed to Black women’s higher risk of distant metastases, [ACS cancer disparity researcher Dr. Farhad Islami said.]

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As for breast cancer subtypes, Islami noted that so-called “triple-negative” breast cancers are more common among Black women than their white counterparts. Those tumors are both more aggressive and have fewer treatment options than other, more common forms of breast cancer.

[Editor’s note: Other researchers have come to a different conclusion about the nature of this outcome disparity. Read more here: Higher breast cancer rates in Black women linked to healthcare access more than genetics, concludes study challenging other findings.]

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