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