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Black women prone
to deadlier breast cancer

Black women prone
to deadlier breast cancer

African-American women who contract breast cancer before reaching menopause are more than twice as likely as white women to have an aggressive, deadlier form of the disease, according to a new U.S. study.

The higher rates of basal-like cancer among younger black women adds another explanation to why blacks are at greater risk of dying than white women from breast cancer despite having a lower overall risk of the disease, the study said.

"We actually don't know why younger African-American women are more prone to this kind of aggressive form of breast cancer. That actually is a challenge for us," said study author Lisa Carey of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In the study of 500 breast cancer cases, 39% of black women patients had the basal-like form of the disease, compared with 16% of the white women of any age and 14% of postmenopausal black women.

There are several types of breast cancer. Basal-like tumors are aggressive and can be difficult to treat, with relatively poor relapse and survival rates. Such cancers account for between 15% and 20% of breast cancers, and some cases are associated with the BRCA-1 gene mutation that increases a woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

But basal-like cancer is sensitive to chemotherapy drugs, so early detection is important, the report published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association said.

The death rate from breast cancer is 36.4 per 100,000 African-American women, compared with 28.3 deaths per 100,000 white women, the report said.

The disparity in breast cancer mortality is more pronounced among women younger than age 50, the general age when menopause begins, with black women's death rate nearly double that of whites--10 per 100,000 among blacks versus six per 100,000 among whites.

Previous research has shown socioeconomic factors also play a role in black women's lower survival rate from breast cancer compared with white women, including less access to care, which translates into them getting diagnosed and treated later.

A study last year showed black women with breast cancer do not live as long as white women with the disease because they have higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other concurrent ills.

Some studies also have shown that lesbians are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than heterosexual women and are less likely to receive adequate medical care than their heterosexual peers. (Reuters, with additional reporting by The Advocate)

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