The breast cancer death rate in the United States has dropped significantly, but black women continue to be more likely to die from the disease despite lower incidence, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.
The study published this week in the CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians finds that in total, the mortality rate has fallen by 43% in three decades, from 1989 to 2020, which translates to 460,000 fewer breast cancer deaths during this period.
When the data was analyzed by race, black women had a lower breast cancer incidence rate than white women, but the mortality rate was 40% higher among black women overall.
“Death rates are declining in black women, as in almost every other group, but we’re still seeing the same discrepancy,” said Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and author main part of the report. , told CNN.
“Evidence is consistent that black women are neglected in the health care system at every step of the breast cancer care continuum, from substandard mammography to delays between diagnosis and the start of treatment to treatment for poor quality at diagnosis,” Siegel said. “The take-home message is that we really need to look carefully at how we treat black women differently.”
Researchers from the American Cancer Society, Emory University and Weill Cornell Medicine analyzed data on breast cancer incidence and deaths from the National Cancer Institute and state Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registries. States, dating back to 1975.
The researchers found that the incidence of breast cancer has been increasing slowly since 2004, by around 0.5% per year, mainly due to earlier and faster diagnosis of the disease at a localized stage.
In contrast, breast cancer death rates have declined steadily since their peak in 1989, the researchers found, dropping 1.9% per year from 2002 to 2011, then 1.3% per year from 2011 to 2022. .
The continuing racial disparities highlighted in the American Cancer Society’s new report came as no surprise to Dr. Samuel Cykert, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, who led research on racial disparities in cancer treatment.
“The fact that the gap is still there doesn’t surprise me because people haven’t focused on it to do something about it,” said Cykert, who was not involved in the report.
“In the late 1970s, the results were equal. The reason is that at that time the diagnosis was ugly and the treatment was very crude and therefore no one had excellent care and therefore the deaths were equal in both groups,” he said. declared. “Then looking at the graphs between 1976 and 1985, they split off where the mortality for white patients improved markedly, and for black patients they improved, but not so much, then around the mid-years 80, the gap has remained constant until today.
To eliminate racial disparities among cancer patients, Cykert said, it is essential to ensure that black women have the same access to hospitals, breast cancer screenings and adequate treatment as white women.
“You really need two things. You need system change that recognizes there are disparities, care and outcomes,” Cykert said.
“You also need community involvement so that individual health systems understand what the barriers are for their community. Moreover, there must also be accountability,” he said, adding that “health systems should use their digital data to review treatment progress for all their patients in real time, especially disadvantaged groups. , and create systems to continue to engage people to complete all care.