NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 8, 2006

While overall new cases of breast cancer have leveled off, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that black women are more likely to die than white women because of a more aggressive-type tumor, says Joyce King in USA Today.

An older study by the same research group first uncovered the existence of the basal-like tumor, which can grow quickly and is associated with a higher mortality rate than other types of breast cancers.

The more recent study focused on whether certain segments of the U.S. female population had a higher incidence of this type of tumor.  Of the 496 cases it sampled from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, one of the country's largest African-American breast cancer databases, researchers found:

  • About 40 percent of pre-menopausal black women had the "basal-like" tumor.
  • Nearly 15 percent of post-menopausal black women also had the tumor. 
  • Some 16 percent of non-African-American women of any age group showed signs of the tumor.

The findings, says Lisa Carey, medical director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, might help explain why pre-menopausal black women have a 77 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than white women of the same age.

Today, many therapies don't work well against basal-like breast cancer, and the most common approach is surgery or chemotherapy.  And while overall mortality rates have dropped about 25 percent, says Carey, if that is to be taken further, more targeted drugs, trials and new ideas will be needed. 

Source: Joyce King, "Blacks face unique breast cancer threat," USA Today, September 8, 2006.


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