Genes: Key to Advanced Breast Cancer in Blacks?
Study Examines Link Between Breast Cancer Patients in Africa and U.S.
WebMD News Archive
Mar. 11, 2005 -- Genetics may be why U.S. black women tend to get more
advanced breast cancer.
Even though less often, when
they do, it's often more advanced than in white women.
Now, researchers have found similarities in breast cancer between African
women and U.S. black women. This, they say, points to a possible for more advanced breast cancers among black American
The researchers noticed several parallels between breast cancer patients in
Africa and black women with breast cancer in the U.S.
- Both groups tend to get breast cancer at younger ages than white
- They are also often diagnosed with more
- Black women with breast cancer in the U.S. and Africa also die more often
from the disease than white women.
Millions of Africans were removed from their homes and enslaved in the U.S.
centuries ago. Most came from sub-Saharan Africa. Could that long-ago
connection also include a breast cancer pattern still seen today?
Genes and Ancestry
The University of Michigan's Alero Fregene, MD, and Lisa Newman, MD, MPH,
explored the topic. They searched for African breast cancer studies reported in
English from 1988 to 2004.
All studies focused on women from sub-Saharan Africa because of their shared
ancestry with black U.S. women. This excludes northern nations including
Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt. Each study had to have at least 50
Three key findings emerged.
- First, black women in the U.S. and Africa had several things in
- Second, breast cancer is poised to rise in Africa, as more Africans adopt
- Last but not least, breast cancer education, diagnosis, treatment, and
research are severely lacking in many parts of Africa.
Younger Age at Diagnosis
Breast cancer frequency was "quite low" in Western Africa, striking
about 20 out of 100,000 women, says the study. In the West, the rate is 90 out
of 100,000 women, says a news release.
In Africa, most women with breast cancer are That's
about 10-15 years earlier than the peak for countries in the West, says the
In America, more black women than whites are diagnosed with breast cancer
before age 45. On average, black women are diagnosed at 57, compared to 63 for
white women, says the study.