Black-White Divide Persists In Breast Cancer

Source: Tara Parker Pope / The New York Times

Breast cancer survival is, over all, three years shorter for black women compared with white women, mostly because their cancer is often more advanced when they first seek medical care, new research shows.

While cancer researchers have known for two decades that black women with breast cancer tend to fare worse than white women, questions remain about the reasons behind the black-white divide. The new report, from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, begins to untangle some of the issues by using an analytic method to filter the influence of demographics, treatment differences and variations in tumor characteristics, among other things.

The findings, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that while a significant number of black women still get inferior cancer care, the larger problem appears to be that black women get less health care over all, and that screening and early detection campaigns may have failed to reach black communities.

Using data from Medicare patients tracked in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database, the researchers analyzed 107,273 breast cancer cases, which included 7,375 black women. The larger number of cases involving white women allowed researchers to find nearly perfectly matched controls against which to compare the outcomes of black women with breast cancer.

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