BOSTON, Nov. 7 -- Despite an overall decline in invasive breast cancer in the United States in recent years, African-American women, particularly younger ones, have not seen a significant decline in their rates, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. These findings, which are being presented at the American Public Health Association (AHPA) Annual Meeting in Boston, Nov. 4 8, strongly suggest the need for additional research to understand why these differences persist and to determine whether avoidable or preventable factors account for these puzzling patterns, according to the investigators.
Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2006, breast cancer will account for nearly one out of every three cancer diagnoses in women in the United States, with an estimated 212,920 women developing the disease. About 40,000 U.S. women die of the disease each year. Although white women have the highest overall breast cancer incidence rates, African-American women under age 40 have a significantly higher incidence of breast cancer as well as a higher rate of death from breast cancer than do white women. Furthermore, African-Americans with breast cancer die at a younger age than women in other groups.
To further investigate racial disparities in breast cancer incidence, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's (UPCI) Center for Environmental Oncology, collaborating with researchers from Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), analyzed breast cancer incidence among African-American and white women in the United States from 1975 to 2002. This study found that the chances of getting breast cancer in newer generations are about 21 percent higher in whites and 41 percent higher in African-Americans than in previous generations of women.