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New Report Shows an Increased Incidence of African-American Women with Breast Cancer

By BCRF | January 4, 2016

Historically, breast cancer is less likely to occur in black women, but the prognoses are more likely to be fatal. However, a new report released by the American Cancer Society reveals for the first time that incidence rates of breast cancer among black women are now equal to that of white women.

“It is a crisis,” said Marc Hurlbert, BCRF Chief Mission Officer, to The New York Times. “The increasing incidence is unfortunate because the mortality rate for black women is already so much higher, and now if more women are getting breast cancer, then unfortunately, the number of black women dying from the disease will go up.”

While the exact cause is unclear, there are various reasons why this change may have occurred. Researchers suggest rising obesity rates, changes in reproductive patterns and access to screening and quality care.

According to Dr. Hurlbert here are some key steps black women and their doctors can take to improve breast health:

What can women do?

1) Talk to your doctor about your level of risk. Share your family history of cancer and discuss whether genetic testing makes sense for you.
2) Be vigilant about knowing your own breasts and talk to a doctor or nurse about changes.
3) When to begin mammograms is a personal decision based on discussions between each woman and her doctor. Most experts still recommend starting annual mammograms at age 40.
4) For new mothers: (i) breastfeed if at all possible, including pumping as needed for working women, for up to 12 months; (ii) be vigilant about changes in your breast between childbirth and when your child goes to elementary school (5-10 years after each child there is an increase in breast cancer risk).

What can doctors, Ob/GYN and family practitioners do?

1) Know that BRCA mutations can be found in families of African descent and BRCA testing may be warranted.
2) Use this simple medical tool developed for Health Care Providers to assess family history:
3) Discuss mammography screening with patients.