Prevalence and biological factors contributing to breast cancer in African American women:
- Breast cancer (33%) is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in African American women.[i]
- 27,060 new cases of breast cancer in African American women is expected for 2013 – 2014.[ii]
- The incidence rate for an African American woman being diagnosed with breast cancer is 118 per 100,000, second only to Caucasian women at 123 per 100,00 (a 4% difference) [iii].
- African American women are typically diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage, when the tumors are larger and harder to treat, than any other racial group of women.[iv]
- Only 51% of African American women, compared to 61% among Caucasian women, are diagnosed with breast cancer at the local stage when the cancer is smallest and easiest to treat. [v]
- The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society suggest the following reasons for the disparities in the breast cancer diagnosis and treatment for African American women: access to and utilization of early detection and treatment; characteristics of the tumors (i.e., size, type of breast cancer), lack of medical coverage, and unequal access (clinical trials) to improvements in cancer treatment. [vi]
- African American women have the highest rate of being diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 45 than any other race of women.[vii]
- The median age of diagnosis is 57 years for African American women, compared to 62 years for white women.
- Women of African Ancestry were linked to a triple negative breast cancer, which is a more aggressive tumor with fewer treatment options and;
- Ghanaian women in her study were diagnosed at an earlier age than American women and with larger tumors and at more advanced stages.
- For information on triple negative breast cancer visit: (http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/trip_neg/)
- In African American women, only 1.3% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had the BRCA1 mutation gene.
- In African American women with breast cancer and under the age of 35, 16.7% of them had the BRCA1 mutation.
- A study conducted by the Journal of American College of Surgeons[x]:
- 72.1% of African American women were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 65, compared to 50.3% of Caucasian women.
- 52.4% of African American women had localized breast cancer (when it is easier to treat), compared to 68% of Caucasian women.
- Overall, about 1 in 2 African American men and 1 in 3 African American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
- The 2008 U.S. census reported 25% of African Americans lived below the poverty line.
- 20% of African Americans were without medical insurance.
- According to American Cancer Society, in studies controlling for income, insurance status, age, and severity of disease, racial minorities still received lower quality health care than Caucasians.
- 18% of African American women reported smoking (associated risk in developing breast cancer)
- 82% of African American women are overweight/obese (obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer), compared to 61% of Caucasian women.
- Only 31% of African American women reported participating in regular physical activity, compared to Caucasian women at 47% for Caucasian women. (inactivity is a risk factor for breast cancer).
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in African American women (lung cancer is first).[xiii]
- 6,080 African American women were expected to die annually from breast cancer in 2013 – 2014.[xii]
- Breast cancer death rates are 38% – 40% higher in African Americans than in Caucasian women.[xiv]
- The 5 year survival rate is 78% for African American women, compared to 90% for Caucasian women.[xv]
Famous and Notable African Amerian Women Survivors of Breast Cancer: [xvi]
Edna Campbell – is a retired guard of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) who played for the Sacramento Monarchs and three other teams in the WNBA. In 2002, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and left the team briefly for treatment, but returned to the team during the Monarchs’ finals series against the Seattle Storm. In 2003, she received the league’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. Campbell continued to play despite the cancer, and has become a symbol of hope and strength to many survivors of the disease. During the 2006 WNBA season, which honored 9 years of existence, Edna Campbell’s return from breast cancer was nominated by fans as “most inspirational” and one of the top four WNBA Anniversary decade moments. She has worked at a national spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Diahann Carroll – is an actress and singer. Carroll is best known for her title role in the 1968 television series Julia, which made her the first African American actress to star in her own television show where she did not play a domestic worker. She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1969, and won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress In A Television Series” in 1968. In 1962, she won the Tony Award for best actress (a first for an African American woman) for the role of Barbara Woodruff in the musical “No Strings”. In 1998, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, ultimately undergoing both surgery and radiation therapy. She now goes around bringing awareness about the disease to the public.
Ruby Dee – is an actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and activist. She has survived breast cancer for more than 30 years. Dee, and her late husband, Ossie Davis, are well-known civil rights activists. Among others, Dee is a member of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Dee and Davis were personal friends of both Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. In 2009, she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.
Pam Grier – grew up in a military family. Her cousin and former National Football League (NFL) standout, Rosey Grier, was already advancing his professional career when Pam’s family moved west to Denver, Colorado. Grier worked as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos before moving to California to pursue acting. She rose to fame in the 1970s for starring in blaxploitation and women-in-prison films. She achieved mainstream celebrity after her appearance in 1997’s Jackie Brown. In 1988, Grier was diagnosed with breast cancer and initially given only 18 months to live. The experience was life changing. Pam’s sister would pass away from the disease two years later. She turned to non-traditional medicine forms, particularly therapeutic forms from the East, to help heal her body. She combined Eastern therapy with traditional radiation, chemotherapy treatments, and surgeries to overcome the challenge of breast cancer.
Marsha A. Hunt – is a model, singer, novelist, and actress. In November of 1970, Hunt gave birth to Mick Jagger’s first and her only child, Karis. In late 2004, Hunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and told to have surgery to remove her right breast and her lymph nodes. Hunt postponed seeking treatment for five months, later wondering if she would have faced first stage rather than third stage cancer had she not. Hunt decided to have a complete mastectomy with no following reconstruction. Once the operation was over Hunt says she did not mourn the loss of her breast, but felt happiness that the cancer had been removed.
Judy Eason McIntyre – is a Democrat serving as a State Senator in Oklahoma. McIntyre was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, 2006, after a routine mammogram. She first underwent a lumpectomy, but learned the cancer was invasive, which meant a mastectomy would be needed. She decided that if the cancer was invasive, she would have a double mastectomy to decrease the chances of a recurrence. She had the double mastectomies and recovered well from the surgery. Due to her experience, she stated that she plans to lobby for additional funding to help prevent breast cancer and to help reduce the number of uninsured Oklahomans.
Robin René Roberts – is a television broadcaster, currently the co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and the official pace car driver of the 2010 Indianapolis 500. On July 31, 2007, Roberts announced during the live broadcast of Good Morning America that she had been diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer. She noticed a lump through self-examination the day they were working on Joel Siegel’s farewell on Good Morning America (Siegel died from colon cancer). She later revealed on the Ellen DeGeneres show that a mammogram did not detect her cancer, but a follow-up ultrasound did. Roberts underwent surgery on August 3, and on August 9, ABC News announced she was planning to return to the anchor desk on August 13. Roberts shaved her head during chemotherapy treatment, but wore a wig on Good Morning America because she “didn’t want to distract viewers from the news.” By January 10, 2008, Roberts had completed her eight chemotherapy treatments. She then had 6 1/2 weeks of radiation treatment. On April 21, 2008, Roberts stopped wearing the wig and embraced her new post-chemotherapy look. She is now an activist against the disease.
Karin L. Stanford – is a writer and professor of Pan-African Studies and Politics at California State University, Northridge. At 34, Karin Stanford was a vegetarian and worked out on a regular basis. She was the picture of health, or so she thought. She felt a lump in her left breast, while preparing to go out one night. It turned out to be a malignant Stage IIA tumor. She had a lumpectomy, and today she is 46 and counting. Her latest book is Breaking the Silence – Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors. This collection of testimonials was inspired by Stanford’s own experiences with breast cancer. Stanford’s other published works include Black Political Organization in the Post-Civil Rights Era, coedited with Ollie Johnson and Beyond The Boundaries: Reverend Jesse Jackson In International Affairs. She is also the author of numerous articles on black women and black politics, Stanford is the former director of the Washington, D.C., Bureau of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and a former Congressional Black Caucus fellow. Stanford is currently teaching the “Politics of Hip Hop”, a class delving into the history and influence of the musical genre.[i] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013. [ii]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013. [iii] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. [iv]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2009. [v]American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.; National Cancer Institute (2010). SEER: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program; American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013. [vi] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. [vii] National Cancer Institute, Cancer Health Disparities. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/disparities/cancer-health-disparities [viii] University of Michigan Health Systems Newsroom. Study links African ancestry to high risk breast cancer (2010). http://www2.med.umich.edu/prmc/media/newsroom/details.cfm?ID=1667 [ix] John EM, Miron A, Gong G, et al. Prevalence of pathogenic BRCA1 mutation carriers in 5 U.S. racial/ethnic groups. Journal of the American Medical Association 2007; 298(24):2869–2876. [x] African-American women still have poorer breast cancer outcomes (4 May, 2009) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-05/wsw-aws050409.php. [xi] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. Healthy People 2010: Overweight and Obesity. Healthy Weight Journal, January/February 2001, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 4-5.; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Prevalence of Regular Physical Activity Among Adults — United States, 2001 and 2005, 56(46); 1209-1212. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [xii]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013. [xiii]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society,2013. [xiv]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013. [xv]American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2013.