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Breast Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2006-2008*

New Cases
An estimated 19,010 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African American women in 2007. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African American women. The incidence rate of breast cancer is about 12% lower in African American women than in white women; however, among younger African American women (under age 40), the incidence is higher than among white women. Breast cancer incidence rates increased rapidly among African American women during the 1980s, largely due to the increased use of mammography. Since the early 1990s, breast cancer incidence rates have stabilized among African American women aged 50 and older, and are decreasing among women under age 50.

An estimated 5,830 deaths from breast cancer are expected to occur in African American women in 2007. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among African American women, surpassed only by lung cancer. Breast cancer death rates among African American women decreased 1.6% annually from 1975-1991 and declined thereafter. However, the decrease was larger in women under age 50 (1.9% per year) than in women ages 50 and older (1.1%). The steady decline in female breast cancer mortality since 1991 has been attributed to improvements in both early detection and treatment. However, there has been a notable divergence between long-term breast cancer mortally rates for white and African American women. During the early 1980s, breast cancer death rates for white and African American women were approximately equal, yet during 2000 to 2003 African American women had a 36% higher death rate than white women.

This difference accounts for one-third of the excess cancer mortality experienced by African American women compared to white women. The higher breast cancer mortality rate among African American women compared to white women occurs despite a lower incidence rate. Factors that contribute to the higher death rates among African American women include differences in access to and utilization of early detection and treatment, risk factors that are differentially distributed by race or socioeconomic status, or biological differences associated with race.

The 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer diagnosed in 1996-2002 among African American women was 77%, compared with90% among whites. This difference can be attributed to both later state at detection and poorer stage-specific survival. Of all breast cancers diagnosed among African American women, 52% are diagnosed at a local stage, compared to 62% among white women. Within each stage, the 5-year survival is also greater among white women.

The reasons for this survival differential have been studied extensively. Poorer outcomes among African American women persist even after accounting for socioeconomic status. Studies have documented unequal receipt of prompt, high-quality treatment for African American women compared to white women. There is also evidence that aggressive tumor characteristics are more common in African American women than white women. More information about breast cancer is available in the American Cancer Society publication Breast Cancer Facts & Figures (8610.05) or from the American Cancer Society Web site at www.cancer.org.

*American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2006-2008. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.


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