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Key Statistics Show Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer

How race can impact a person’s experience with breast cancer, including risk, age of diagnosis, and treatment outcomes.

Statistics show that a person's race and ethnicity are often significant factors in their experience with breast cancer.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

One in every eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. While many cases can be treated successfully—especially when detected and treated early—breast cancer is still the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S.

Nearly 40,000 women die from this disease each year. And black women have the highest mortality rate compared to women of other races and ethnicities.

Black women and breast cancer statistics
There are many factors that shape a person's experience with breast cancer—including the type of breast cancer, the stage, and the age at which they are diagnosed. This means that breast cancer can be a very different experience for each person.

Statistics show that a person's race and ethnicity are often significant factors in their experience with breast cancer. Consider these numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
  • At diagnosis, 45 percent of black women are found to have breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast. This number is 35 percent among white women.
  • Delays in follow-up testing may contribute to this—20 percent of Black women have a delay of 60 days or more in receiving follow-up tests after a mammogram. This number is 12 percent among white women. Delays mean a cancer has more time to spread.
  • Approximately 69 percent of black women begin treatment within 30 days of a breast cancer diagnosis, while 83 percent of white women start treatment within 30 days.
  • Black women are also more likely to develop breast cancer earlier in life. Approximately 23 percent of black women with breast cancer are diagnosed before age 50. This number is 16 percent among white women.

In addition to delays in screening and treatment, genetic factors may also contribute to these disparities.

The most aggressive sub-type of breast cancer is known as triple-negative breast cancer. This subtype occurs twice as often in women of African ancestry than it does in women of European ancestry. Another aggressive subtype—HER2+ breast cancer—is also more common in black women.

Latin American women and breast cancer
While the rate of breast cancer is 28 percent lower among Latin American women (compared to white women), Latin American women are still 30 percent more likely to die from breast cancer.

Latin American women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, with more aggressive disease (such as triple-negative), and are more likely to be diagnosed at more advanced stages.

The challenge of clinical trials
In order to create better cancer treatments and improve outcomes, clinical trials need participants with diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. Currently, white women make up the vast majority of clinical trial participants.

Between 2000 and 2019, black and Latin American people made up only 8.7 percent and 4.8 percent of participants in clinical trials for cancer therapies.

While there have been great improvements in how we understand, detect, and treat breast cancer, there is still much work to be done.

Article sources open article sources

BreastCancer.org. "Breast Cancer Facts and Statistics."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Black Women Have Higher Death Rates from Breast Cancer Than Other Women."
Erica M. Stringer-Reasor, Ahmed Elkhanany, et al. "Disparities in Breast Cancer Associated With African American Identity." American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book. Vol. 41. May 27, 2021.
Meeri Kim. "Getting to the Bottom of Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer." Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. April 28, 2021.
Sumit Siddharth* and Dipali Sharma. "Racial Disparity and Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in African-American Women: A Multifaceted Affair between Obesity, Biology, and Socioeconomic Determinants." Cancers, 2018. Vol. 10, No. 12.
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. "How race affects your breast cancer risk."
Breast Cancer Research Foundation. "What Hispanic Women and Latinas Need to Know About Breast Cancer."
Juan Javier-DesLoges, Tyler J. Nelson, et al. "Disparities and trends in the participation of minorities, women, and the elderly in breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer clinical trials." American Cancer Society Journals, 2022. Vol. 128, No. 4.

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