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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Black Women's Breast Cancer Risk Tested

Experts Create "CARE" Model to Estimate Breast Cancer Risk in African-American Women
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 27, 2007 -- Researchers have created a new way to estimate African-American women's odds of developing breast cancer.

The method uses statistics to gauge breast cancer risk in African-American women based on three factors:

The statistical model is dubbed the "CARE" model because the data used to create the model came from the Women's Contraceptive and Reproductive Experiences (CARE) study.

That study included some 1,600 African-American women with breast cancer and a similar number of African-American women without breast cancer.

The researchers crunched the numbers, added in figures from a national cancer database, and then checked the results against other studies of beast cancer in African-American women.

The CARE model was accurate in gauging breast cancer risk in African-American women, although it underestimated the significance of having previous benign breast biopsies.

Biopsies don't cause cancer. And while all breast lumps should be checked, most aren't cancer, though some may indicate breast cancer risk.

The CARE model comes from experts including Mitchell Gail, MD, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics.

In 1989, Gail and colleagues created the Gail model to gauge breast cancer risk. The Gail model is based on studies of white women.

The CARE model needs to be validated in other studies, but Gail's team recommends the CARE model for counseling African-American women about breast cancer risk.

Gail's team describes the CARE model in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And they offer to share the full model with other researchers.

But the CARE model isn't a do-it-yourself quiz. And it doesn't include all possible influences on breast cancer risk.

For instance, the CARE model doesn't cover BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations that make breast cancer (and ovarian cancer) more likely.

Statistical models aren't perfect; they don't predict every case of breast cancer. So be sure to keep up with recommended mammograms and other tests, even if you're a low-risk patient.

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