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Breast Cancer Health Center

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More Black Women Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Whites still have highest rates, but blacks more likely to die


Study author DeSantis said the most important thing a woman can do is get screened regularly. "In addition, lifestyle plays an important role," she said. "Not gaining weight, regular physical activity and only drinking moderately can help reduce the risk of breast cancer."

A majority of women are being screened, but work is needed to get even more to have regular mammograms, the experts said.

In 2010, 67 percent of women 40 and older had a mammogram in the past two years. The percent of women getting regular mammograms, however, peaked in 2000, went down slightly and has remained about the same since 2005, they said.

On the plus side, deaths from breast cancer have dropped 34 percent since 1990 among all women, except for American Indians/Alaska Native women, they found.

Yet there is still a racial disparity with black women having the worst survival rate of any group, the researchers report.

One reason for their poorer survival rate may be that blacks are being diagnosed when the cancer has already spread. This could reflect differences in the quality of screening and delayed follow-up for abnormal findings, according to the report.

Between 2006 and 2010, rates increased for the most common type of breast cancer, called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, among young white women, Hispanic women in their 60s, and all but the oldest black women, the researchers found.

This might be the result of more obesity and women having fewer children or not having children, DeSantis said. "These [factors] are associated with increased risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers," she said.

The "good news, if one can say that," she said, is "estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers tend to be less aggressive and respond better to treatment."

The rates for estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers, however, dropped among most age and racial/ethnic groups, the researchers note. These are more aggressive and harder to treat, DeSantis said.

White women have the highest rates of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, and black women have the highest rates of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, which may be due to racial differences in risk factors, the researchers speculate.

This year, more than 232,300 new cases of invasive breast cancer and more than 39,600 breast cancer deaths are expected among U.S. women. About eight in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly nine in 10 women who die from breast cancer, are 50 or older, the researchers note.

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