Study Shows Black Women Are Much More Likely to Die from Breast Cancer Than White Women

Heart framing from fingers on woman chest

Heart framing from fingers on woman chest | iStock.com/Rudyanto Wijaya

A study published just this Monday in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology found that Black women were 43.1% more likely to die from breast cancer between the years 2005 and 2009 than white women were. The study, which followed up on 2014 findings, examined breast cancer death statistics in the 50 largest cities in the United States. The earlier study found that Black women were 39.7% more likely to die from the disease, meaning the correlation is even higher than first thought.

The study found that the racial disparities in death rates also varied greatly depending on the city being studied. For instance, in Atlanta, Black women were 117% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. In other cities such as Austin, Wichita, San Antonio, and Kansas City, Black women were all more than 70% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Of course, this begs the questions…Why does this significant gap exist and why is it growing?

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

The study co-author, Bijou Hunt, offers an explanation that goes back to the early 1990s, saying, “Around that time, we started to see white women make improvements in breast cancer mortality rates because they were able to access screening and treatment, while black women were maybe not able to access it as well as white women.”

Similarly, co-author Marc Hurlbert claims that it’s access to resources in screening and preventative treatment that makes all the difference. He says, “The fact that the disparity grew dramatically over the period of time, and the fact that it varies by geography, that suggests that probably access to quality health care is the key issue.”

To a much lesser extent, genetics and biology may play a role in the gap, but to a far lesser extent than the factors mentioned above. Thus far, it’s found that breast cancer is slightly less common in Black women than white women, which suggests the gap in treatment is even wider than the numbers suggest at first glance.

Aside from the comments and opinions of the study authors, the research didn’t serve to examine the reasons for the disparity as much as the fact that the disparity exists. It’s clear from the information at hand that it stems from access to treatment, education, and screening, rather than innate or genetic issues. Hopefully, this issue can be further investigated and treatment can be provided to all people to minimize the mortality of this disease.