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Improving Blacks' Breast Cancer Survival

Upgrading Care of Diabetes, High Blood Pressure May Help
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 11, 2005 -- Black women with breast cancer have shorter survival spans than white women, and this may be related to other medical conditions, a new study suggests.

The study appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association. It included about 900 black and white women with breast cancer.

Over 10 years, more black women than whites died -- and not just from breast cancer. Other health problems -- especially diabetes and high blood pressure -- seemed to contribute to much of the black-white survival gap.

In fact, most black patients died of health problems unrelated to cancer, the study shows.

The researchers included C. Martin Tammemagi, PhD, of Canada's Brock University in St. Catharine's, Ontario.

Black-White Breast Cancer Survival

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for American women (except for nonmelanoma skin cancer).

In the U.S., breast cancer is most often seen in white women. But black women are more likely to die of the disease.

"Although breast cancer survival has improved over the last 30 years, disparities in breast cancer survival between blacks and whites have not declined and remain sizeable," write the researchers.

From 1995-2002, nearly 90% of white breast cancer patients survived for at least five years. That percentage was smaller for blacks (75%), the researchers note.

The reasons for ethnic gaps in breast cancer survival aren't fully understood yet.

Other studies have shown that black women are often diagnosed at later, harder-to-treat stages of breast cancer and have more aggressive breast cancers. Black women may also face problems getting top-quality medical care. Other researchers have suggested that genetics could also be a factor.

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