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Breast cancer
deaths higher among blacks

Breast cancer
deaths higher among blacks

African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer, and minorities in general do not receive the best treatment for the disease compared with white women, according to health studies. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that black women, even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, are nearly 20% more likely than white women to die of breast cancer. A second study found that women in minority groups, including Hispanics, are half as likely to get complete follow-up treatment for the disease.

"Even after controlling for socioeconomic status and disease stage, African-American women were 19% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women," said Lisa Newman, director of the Breast Care Center at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the study's lead author. "Our research underscores the need to investigate the role of biologic, genetic, and sociocultural factors in breast cancer mortality among black women."

The second study, conducted at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that minority women with early-stage breast cancer had double the risk of white women of failing to receive radiation, chemotherapy, or hormonal therapy following breast cancer surgery.

"We found that one in three black women and nearly one in four Hispanic women fail to receive the necessary adjuvant therapy," said Nina Bickell, associate professor of health policy and medicine at Mount Sinai and that study's lead author.

The likelihood of not getting proper follow-up treatment among whites was 16%, much lower than the 23% for Hispanics and 34% among blacks.

That study also controlled for clinical, demographic, and treatment access factors, including the presence of other illnesses and whether or not a woman was covered by health insurance.

Researchers found that women from minority groups were indeed more likely to have other illnesses and had less insurance than white women, suggesting that these factors could influence a physician's decision to prescribe treatment and a patient's ability to actually receive treatment.

"Significant progress can be made toward reducing racial disparities in cancer death by eliminating the disparities in breast cancer treatment," Bickell said.

Previous studies have shown that lesbians are at a higher risk of contracting breast cancer than heterosexual women. Lesbians also face barriers to health care access, including perceived or real discrimination in health care settings, that often lead to late diagnoses of breast cancer and suboptimal care for the disease. (Reuters, with additional reporting by The Advocate)

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