Late Stage Breast Cancer Is A Bigger Risk For Minority Groups

October 21st 2015

Laura Donovan

A new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found that Black and Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer and die from the disease than their white counterparts.

"We saw a consistent pattern of late diagnosis and not receiving recommended treatment for African-American women across all breast cancer subtypes," study lead Lu Chen told the Huffington Post.

The researchers looked at over 100,000 women from 18 U.S. cancer registries and concluded that Black and Hispanic women were at a 30 to 60 percent higher risk of receiving a late stage breast cancer diagnosis than white women. Black women were 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the deadliest stage of breast cancer—stage IV. American Indian and/or Alaska Native women were also found to have "a 3.9-fold higher risk of stage IV triple-negative breast cancer." The study also reported that Black and Hispanic patients had a lower chance of receiving the full course of recommended treatments for every breast cancer subtype.

By comparison, Pacific Islander and Filipino women were 20 to 60 percent more likely that white women to be diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. However, Chinese and Japanese women were 30 to 40 percent less likely to get a late-stage diagnosis than their white counterparts.

The reasons for the variance in the numbers is multi-fold, Chen explained to the Huffington Post: it is in part due to when the cancer is caught and what subtype of cancer it is, which can affect treatment and outcome. Genetics and socioeconomic factors also play a part. "African American and Hispanic women were also consistently at higher risk of not receiving guideline-concordant treatment across subtypes," according to the study's abstract.

"We had expected to see some consistencies in the pattern of late diagnosis," Chen told the Huffington post. "We think these disparities are likely to be driven by socio-economic factors."

Last year, the American Cancer Society found that the survival rate of all breast cancer stages combined is 90 percent for white women. Black women, meanwhile, have only a 79 percent survival rate, which is roughly the same rate of survival for white women with breast cancer in 1975. This fits with previous research on the health care quality discrepancy between white and Black individuals. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that found white patients receive better health care across the board compared to their Black counterparts. As noted by the Huffington Post, the United States has significantly improved breast cancer education, survival rates, and treatment for many years, yet certain minorities have not reaped the benefits of these changes.

"[M]inorities are less likely to be given appropriate cardiac medications or to undergo bypass surgery, and are less likely to receive kidney dialysis or transplants," the Institute of Medicine report found. "By contrast, they are more likely to receive certain less-desirable procedures, such as lower limb amputations for diabetes and other conditions."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the number one cancer among women of all backgrounds and the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women. More than 41,000 women and 405 men in the U.S. died of breast cancer in 2012.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more information on breast cancer, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation's website.