Facts about Breast Cancer Disparities

Overall Breast Cancer Inequities

Cancer support 2We have been making great strides in the fight against breast cancer, but those improvements have not occurred equally among all populations. The African American/Black, Hispanic/Latina, and other communities within the U.S. continue to be disproportionately burdened by high incidence (new cases) and mortality rates of breast cancer.

Incidence

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women in the U.S.
  • White women have the highest breast cancer incidence overall, while Asian-American and Pacific Islander women have the lowest.

Mortality

  • African-American women have the highest breast cancer mortality overall, while Asian-American and Pacific Islander women have the lowest.

Screening

  • In the U.S. white, black and Asian-American women 45 years of age and older reported similar numbers for having a mammogram in the past two years (69 percent, 70 percent, and 69 percent respectively); however, in women of other racial/ethnic groups, mammography usage is slightly lower: 64 percent in Hispanic/Latina women, and 61 percent in American Indian, and Alaska Native women.

Breast Cancer Inequities in the African American/Black Community

Incidence

  • Overall, incidence rates for white and black women in the U.S. are now about the same. However, black women have a higher breast cancer incidence rate than white women before age 45.
  • The median age of diagnosis is 58 years old for black women, compared to 62 years old for white women.
  • Aggressive tumor characteristics are more common in breast cancer diagnosed in black women than other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Twenty-two percent of breast cancers in black women are referred to as triple negative compared to 10-12 percent of those among women of other races/ethnicities in the U.S. Premenopausal black women appear to be at particular risk of triple negative breast cancer; an aggressive type of breast cancer with shorter survival.

Mortality

  • Despite similar incidence rates, breast cancer death rates are 42 percent higher in black women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

Survival

  • The overall 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer diagnosed in 2005-2011 among black women was 80 percent, compared to 91 percent among white women; this difference may be attributed to both later stage at diagnosis and poorer stage-specific survival among black women.

Screening

  • Despite generally similar screening rates, breast cancer is detected at an advanced stage more often in black than in white women. This difference has been largely attributed to longer intervals between mammograms and lack of timely follow-up of suspicious results.

Breast Cancer Inequities in the Hispanic/Latina Community

Incidence

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer (and the leading cause of cancer death) among Hispanic/Latina women.

Mortality

  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women in the U.S.

Stage Distribution & Survival

  • Breast cancer is less likely to be diagnosed at a local stage in Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women in the U.S. after differences in age, socioeconomic status and method of detection are controlled.
  • Hispanic women are also more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and tumors that are hormone receptor negative, both of which are more difficult to treat.
  • Slightly lower rates of mammography utilization and delayed follow-up of abnormal screening results among Hispanic women likely contribute to this difference.
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