National Breast Cancer Coalition

Truth #14: The mortality rate from breast cancer is higher for African American women than for Caucasian women

TRUE. White women are more likely to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, but African American women have a higher mortality rate.

The incidence rate of breast cancer for African American women is about 118 per 100,000 women compared to 128 per 100,000 for white women. The mortality rate for breast cancer for African American women is about 33 per 100,000 women compared to 24 per 100,000 white women. (Among Hispanic women, the incidence rate is 88 per 100,000 women and the mortality rate is 16 per 100,000 women.)

One reason for the difference in mortality among African American women may be that young African American women are disproportionately affected by triple-negative breast cancer. There is no targeted treatment for this subtype. It lacks the receptors for estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and cannot be controlled with drugs such as tamoxifen or trastuzumab that target these receptors. There are fewer effective treatment options for these patients, however it appears that chemotherapy may be more effective in this type of breast cancer.

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