Rebecca Siegel (Courtesy photo)
Rebecca Siegel (Courtesy photo)

While breast cancer death rates dropped by 43% from 1989 to 2020, Black women continue to be 40% more likely to die from the disease despite lower incidence, according to the latest edition of American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Breast Cancer Statistics, 2022.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women after skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, after lung cancer, but the leading cause of cancer death among Black and Hispanic women. 

In 2022, approximately 287,850 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 43,250 will die from the disease.

Black women have lower breast cancer incidence than White women (127.8 vs. 133.7 per 100,000) but 40% higher breast cancer mortality (27.6 vs. 19.7 per 100,000). 

Among women under 50, mortality is twofold higher (12.1 vs. 6.5 per 100,000). This racial disparity has persisted unabated since 2011, said the ACS.

“We found that despite continued progress in reducing the risk of death from breast cancer, there is an alarming persistent gap for Black women, who have a 40% higher risk of dying from breast cancer than White women despite lower incidence,” said Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director, surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and senior author of the report. 

“This is not new, and it is not explained by more aggressive cancer. We have been reporting this same disparity year after year for a decade. It is time for health systems to take a hard look at how they are caring differently for Black women.”

Other key findings from the report include: Breast cancer death rates are declining in every racial/ethnic group except American Indian and Alaska Native women. 

And Black women have the lowest five-year relative survival rate of any racial/ethnic group for every breast cancer subtype and stage (except stage 1).

Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, contributing author of the study, said the slow decline in breast cancer mortality during the most recent period partly reflects stagnant screening uptake and timely and high-quality treatment.

“Coordinated and concerted efforts by policymakers and health care systems and providers are needed to provide optimal breast cancer care to all populations, including expansion of Medicaid in the non-expansion Southern and Midwest states, where Black women are disproportionately represented,” Jemal said. “Also, increased investment is needed for improved early detection methods and treatments.”

Lisa A. Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said lawmakers can do more to address the unequal burden of breast cancer among Black women, including increasing funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

“Taking this step is critical to closing this persistent gap and moving us closer to ending cancer as we know it for everyone.”

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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