CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For decades, researchers have tried to understand why breast cancer in younger black women is such a significant public health problem.
Black women have fewer breast cancers than white women, but their mortality is worse. Black women under the age of 50 have a 77 percent higher mortality rate from breast cancer than white women of the same age.
Results of a study led by scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill schools of Public Health and Medicine and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer suggest one reason for these differences.
When younger, premenopausal, black women get breast cancer, they are more than twice as likely as older women, black or white, to get an aggressive breast cancer subtype, the study found. They are also much less likely to get the least aggressive type. A report of the research appears in the June 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"The present study adds an important piece to a large puzzle," said senior study author Dr. Robert Millikan. "Previous studies showed that many breast tumors in younger African American women are very fast-growing and hard to treat.
"We found something new: Younger African American breast cancer patients show a high frequency of one of the aggressive subtypes of breast cancer called basal-like," said Millikan, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, a UNC Lineberger member and principal investigator of the Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS).
The CBCS, one of the largest black breast cancer databases in the United States, is a population-based case-control study that enrolled women with breast cancer from 24 counties of North Carolina as cases, and an equal number of women without breast cancer as controls. Women who consented to the study were interviewed about their histories, and their tumor tissue was collected. The study required extensive cooperation from a
Contact: L.H. Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine