National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
November 27, 2012 • Volume 9 / Number 23

CDC Update

New Statistics on Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality Show Disparities, Opportunities

Currently, black women in the United States have higher rates of death from breast cancer than white women, even though fewer black women are diagnosed with the disease. The latest evidence on these disparities comes from a study in the November 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Dr. Lisa Richardson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues analyzed statistics on breast cancer incidence, stage at diagnosis, and mortality for U.S. women. They used United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) data from 2005 to 2009. Among other results, the authors found that 27 deaths occurred for every 100 black women diagnosed with breast cancer, whereas 18 deaths occurred for every 100 white women diagnosed.

"This study provides further description of disparities in breast cancer between white and black women and discusses factors that contribute to the differences," said co-author Dr. Kathy Cronin of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). Another contribution of the study, she noted, are national maps that visually represent the ratio of incidence and mortality for white women and black women across states.

The authors offered some suggestions for reducing the disparity at the individual level and at the health care-system level. At the individual level, the authors noted, timely follow-up care after an abnormal screening exam and access to state-of-the-art treatments are critical to improving survival among black women. At the health care-system level, their recommendations included expanding the use of information technology and patient navigation.

Although biological differences in tumors explain some of the disparities, Dr. Cronin noted, there are "considerable opportunities to reduce the gaps throughout the continuum of care—from early detection and follow up of abnormal results through access to and compliance with high-quality treatment."

Further reading: "Building a Better Cancer Screening Process"