Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women under 60 years old are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women in the same age group. In fact, data from 2015 showed black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

>> Read more trending news

New research from Emory University, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute points to differences in health insurance as the culprit.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included data from the National Cancer Data Base on 563,497 black and white women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer between 2004 and 2013.

The researchers examined five factors for the study:

  • Demographics (age, stage, state, year of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Comorbidities (other health conditions)
  • Insurance (lack of insurance, private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.)
  • Tumor characteristics (size, type, stage, etc.)
  • Treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, surgery, etc.)

The findings

They found that insurance explained one-third of the additional risk of death among the black women compared to white women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Additionally, almost three times as many black women (22.7 percent) were either uninsured or had Medicaid insurance compared to white women (8.4 percent).

“Lack of insurance is a barrier to receipt of timely and high-quality treatment and screening services,” study authors wrote.

Other major factors that explained the differences: tumor characteristics (23.2 percent), comorbidities (11.3 percent) and treatment (4.8 percent).

Nearly 80 percent of the women in the study had the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and according to the researchers, when matched for factors such as insurance, comorbidity and others, those factors accounted for a combined 76.3 percent of the total excess risk of death in black patients.

The authors noted that when it came to treatment differences, black and white women contrasted most for hormone therapy, which, according to ACS, is typically used after surgery to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

“Several studies reported that black women are less likely to complete chemotherapy and hormone therapy,” study author Ahmedin Jemal told the ACS. “This could be for many reasons, including problems with transportation or the inability to pay for medicine.”

Additionally, previous research has shown that black women get lower quality mammograms and are less likely to have a follow-up appointment after receiving abnormal mammograms.

And insurance is vital for both high-quality cancer care and for early detection.

“We know so much about cancer prevention and control,” Jemal, who is also vice president of the ACS surveillance and health services research program, said. “But we’re not applying it to the whole population equally. We have to make the standard of care available to everyone, including people with low income. And blacks are disproportionately represented in that group.”

Read the full study at ascopubs.org

Learn more about the study and more about how women can protect themselves from breast cancer at cancer.org

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Health

Why mothers shouldn’t rush into another pregnancy
Why mothers shouldn’t rush into another pregnancy

It only takes between eight and 10 weeks after giving birth for a woman to be able to conceive another child, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best thing for her body. While there’s no set rule as to how soon a woman should get pregnant again, a local doctor encourages women to consider giving their body enough time to physically...
Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm
Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us. "Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's...
Americans binge 17 billion drinks a year, CDC estimates
Americans binge 17 billion drinks a year, CDC estimates

College students have a reputation for binge drinking, but it’s not just them. Americans drink massive amounts of alcoholic beverages, according to a new report.  Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, to determine...
Sonic Drive-In selling pickle juice slushes
Sonic Drive-In selling pickle juice slushes

As we get closer to summer, Sonic Drive-In will have the perfect slush flavor to cool you down: Pickle juice. Food and Wine reports the fast food restaurant will roll out Pickle Juice Snow Cone slushes starting in June. Taste testers say it's not as bad as you might think. It's sweet and tangy. It's also a great partner with burgers, hot dogs, and...
Mikesell’s newest chip flavors had us coming back for seconds (and thirds)
Mikesell’s newest chip flavors had us coming back for seconds (and thirds)

If you’re snacking on potato chips in Dayton, it’s assumed they’re Mikesell’s.  For over 100 years, Mikesell’s has been a snacking tradition in the Gem City. Although you can always grab a bag of their traditional potato chips, they’re keeping it fresh and fun with two brand new varieties: Old...
More Stories