Unfortunately, we see significant disparities in breast cancer between African American women and white American women. Breast cancer death rates are approximately 40 percent higher in the African American community compared to the White community.
Some of this is related to socioeconomic disadvantages that are more prevalent among African Americans, such as higher poverty rates and higher rates of being uninsured. All of these factors create barriers to healthcare access leading to African American women being diagnosed with more advanced stages of breast cancer when the disease is less likely to be treated successfully. But the socioeconomic disadvantages are not the only explanation.
African American women are also more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages compared to white American women. All of us, regardless of racial ethnic identity, have an increasing risk of developing breast cancer as we get older. But for African American women in younger ages, specifically younger than the ages of 40 to 45, the risk of breast cancer are higher compared to the risk of breast cancer in young white American women.
African American women are also more likely at all ages to be diagnosed with biologically more aggressive patterns of breast cancer, such as the triple negative breast cancer. Male breast cancer is actually twice as common in the African American community compared to the White American community. And breast cancer in men is very uncommon in general, but again for African American men the risk is higher than it is for white American men.
Because of the disparities that we see in breast cancer between African American women and white American women, it’s important for African American women to understand that breast cancer screening and breast health awareness overall is even more important.