Breast Cancer Fatality Rate Falls, But Racial Disparities Persist

Black women over age 50 more likely to die from breast cancer than white women

Breast Cancer Awareness / Breast Cancer Fatality Rate Falls, But Racial Disparities Persist
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October 17, 2016

Although overall women are now less likely to die from breast cancer than they were 10 years ago, racial disparities still persist in the amount by which the death rates have fallen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate for white women dropped more from 2010 through 2014 than it did for black women: 1.9 percent for white women and 1.5 percent for black women.

And even though the death rates for women younger than 50 declined across all races, black women over age 50 are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women of the same age.

This information is troubling since black women were less likely than white women to get breast cancer 40 years ago. Now, the breast cancer risk is the same for both, and black women are 41 percent more likely to die from it.

There are some positive reasons for the rise in the number of black women being diagnosed, such as more women getting mammograms to screen for the disease. However, there are also negative reasons: calorie-dense foods, lack of exercise, and increasing obesity rates are among those cited by the CDC as potential factors.

Although the CDC did find similar reductions in deaths among younger women in both races, the death rate for older white women decreased by two percent annually, compared with one percent for black women.

Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical and scientific officer, believes that one of the major reasons for this lies in access to healthcare.

"Forty to 50 percent of black women get less than optimal care for breast cancer, whether it's mammography or treatment," he said.

This trend is also true for poor white women, who are also much less likely to get sufficient care and, as a result, are more likely to die.

"We need to focus on getting good care, high-quality care to everybody," Brawley said. "We need to realize that in the United States of America in 2016 a substantial proportion of Americans with cancer get absolutely atrocious care."

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