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Breast Cancer Rates Among Black Women and White Women

Black women and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate, but black women die from breast cancer at a higher rate than white women.

Compared with white women, black women had lower rates of getting breast cancer (incidence rates) and higher rates of dying from breast cancer (death rates) between 1999 and 2013. During this period, breast cancer incidence went down among white women, and went up slightly among black women. Now, breast cancer incidence is about the same for women of both races.

Deaths from breast cancer are going down among both black and white women, especially among younger black women. But breast cancer death rates are 40% higher among black women than white women.

Key Findings

  • Compared with white women, breast cancer incidence rates were higher among black women who are younger than 60 years old, but lower among black women who are 60 years old or older.
  • Breast cancer was more likely to be found at an earlier stage among white women than among black women.
  • Among women who were 60 to 69 years old, breast cancer death rates dropped 2% per year among white women, compared with 1% per year among black women. This was the largest difference by race.

What Can Be Done

Black women are more likely than white women to get triple-negative breast cancer, a kind of breast cancer that often is aggressive and comes back after treatment. Scientists are doing research to learn why some women are more likely to get this kind of breast cancer, and to find better ways to treat it. Through this work, women have become more aware of the different kinds of breast cancer.

Public health agencies are working to make sure all women are screened for breast cancer as recommended, and those who are diagnosed with breast cancer can get the best treatments. They also are helping women reduce the risk factors that raise their chances of getting breast cancer. Together, these efforts could reduce racial disparities in breast cancer.

Citation

Richardson LC, Henley J, Miller J, Massetti G, Thomas CC. Patterns and trends in black-white differences in breast cancer incidence and mortality—United States, 1999–2013. MMWR 2016;65(40):1093–1098.

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