Breast Cancer More Lethal Among Young Black Women

A recent study released in Chicago in early-August this year said that young black women with cancer were far more likely to get a more lethal and aggressive form of cancer compared to white women. The study covered a total of 496 women below the age of 55 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer from 1993 to 1996.

The study suggested that biology could provide some answers as to why black women were afflicted with deadlier forms of cancer than their white counterparts. Previous studies said the difference may have been due to inadequate screening rates.

Official government figures indicate that a greater percentage of black women die from health problem than men. Since 1990, breast cancer has caused 15.4 deaths among black women for every 100,000 population compared to 9.3 deaths for white women for every 100,000 population.

Medical doctors have said that, traditionally, more white women have contracted cancer compared to African American women, but that when the latter suffer from breast cancer, it is usually a more aggressive type of cancer that is exceedingly more difficult to treat.

Medical researchers identified a quick-spreading, basal-like subtype of cancer that has afflicted a high level of black women, about 39 percent of black women who are pre-menopausal. Among older black women, this basal-like subtype also accounts for 14 percent of breast cancer cases. Overall, it was prevalent in only 16 percent of non-black women of any age.

The study said that this type of genetic profiling of cancer suffered has led drug manufacturers to product a new generation of best cancer drugs that are targeted at specific race groups. Reports indicate that these new generation drugs have met with startling success. However, with regard to the basal-like subtype, there are no such targeted therapies that have been developed and the conventional chemotherapy is still the best medical approach.

Doctors said the next step is further research that can provide a deeper understanding of what causes the more lethal subtype of breast cancer and why it tends to afflict a greater percentage of black women. At the moment, it is uncertain whether this subtype has anything to do with any inherited predisposition or with the fact that black women are exposed to something in the environment that other women are not.

Doctors did state, however, that one reason for the higher mortality rate among black women is in prevailing disparities in access to treatment.

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