Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancers at later stages than whites
For many years, oncologists and cancer doctors are concerned about a strange phenomenon — why does black women have a propensity to die from breast cancer than whites? Unfortunately, at present it is still a mystery. reported by a new study that shows the racial disparity can not be chalked up to obesity differences.
As a group, black women in America are generally heavier than whites and researchers had thought that might explicate why only 78% survive 5 years after the diagnosis of breast cancer, in comparison to 90% of white women.
“This has been a major question,” accented Susan M. Gapstur of the U.S. Cancer Society, who wasn’t active in the new work.
Several studies have tied obesity to poorer survival after breast cancer, but just a few small ones have tested whether that connection varies by race.
And the new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the most detailed and well-designed up to now, Gapstur told Reuters Health.
Yani Lu of City of Hope in Duarte, California, and colleagues used data gathered for an earlier breast cancer study on more than 4,500 women located in major American cities.
About a third of the women were black and the rest were white, and all of them were between aged 35 and 64 when they were confirmed with breast cancer.
Over eight years later, 14% of the white women and 25 % of the black women had died from breast cancer.
The women who had been interviewed about their weight 5 years before their diagnosis of cancer and more than two times as many black women as white were obese (27% versus 12%).
Obese white women had a 46% higher risk of dying of breast cancer than their normal-weight white peers and the improved risk survived after taking other diseases and education into account.
But there was no such link for blacks.
The researchers did find a hint that extra poundage might be connected with cancer death in black women with advanced disease, but Gapstur said those findings would have to be replicated by additional studies in other groups.
“It was unexpected that this study shows a confident connection between adiposity and breast cancer mortality in white women and not in black women,” she said.
“It raises important questions on other probable reasons.”
While there aren’t any bulletproof answers yet, researchers believe differences in tumor biology and also health care access could be at play.
A year ago, for example, one study discovered that black and Hispanic women wait longer to get medications after breast cancer surgery than whites.
Previous research has also found that black women usually tend to be diagnosed with breast cancers at later stages than white women.
“We don’t yet have a clear picture,” Gapstur said.
Yet, she added, the message to black breast cancer survivors isn’t that they should not be worried about their weight.
“It is usually necessary to maintain a healthy weight, for many different reasons,” she said.
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