Breast cancer statistics, 2017: Gap in death rates between whites, blacks closing in several states

October 3, 2017, American Cancer Society

Overall breast cancer death rates dropped 39 percent between 1989 and 2015, averting 322,600 breast cancer deaths during those 26 years. And while black women continue to have higher breast cancer death rates than whites nationally, death rates in several states are now statistically equivalent, perhaps reflecting an elimination of disparities in those states.

The findings come from Breast Cancer Statistics, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and its companion consumer publication Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, reports published every two years by the American Cancer Society to describe the latest trends in incidence, mortality, survival, and screening by race/ethnicity in the United States, as well as state variations in these measures.

Breast is the most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. women (excluding skin cancers) with about 252,710 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2017. It is the second leading cause of cancer among women in the U.S., after lung cancer; 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die from this disease in 2017.

Eighty-one percent of cancers are diagnosed among women ages 50 years and older, and 89% of breast cancer deaths occur in this age group. The median age at diagnosis for all women with breast cancer is 62 years; the median age at diagnosis is younger for than for white women; and the median age at breast cancer death is 68 years overall (70 years for white women and 62 years for black women).

The report outlines substantial variations in breast cancer incidence and mortality rates by race/ethnicity in the United States. Non-Hispanic white (NHW) and non-Hispanic black (NHB) women have higher breast cancer incidence and death rates than women of other race/ethnicities; Asian/Pacific Islander (API) women have the lowest incidence and death rates. Although the overall breast cancer incidence rate during 2010 through 2014 was slightly (2 percent) lower in NHB women (125.5 per 100,000) than in NHW women (128.7 per 100,000), the breast cancer death rate during 2011 through 2015 was 42 percent higher in NHB women (29.5 per 100,000) than in NHW women (20.8 per 100,000).

The steep declines in breast cancer death rates since 1989 have been attributed to both improvements in treatment and early detection by mammography. By the same token, not all women have benefited equally from these improvements, as evidenced by variation in mortality trends. A striking divergence in long-term trends between black and white women emerged in the early 1980s and continued to widen over the last several decades, but recent data suggest that the racial disparity may be stabilizing.

In fact, while the excess death rate in blacks varies widely in the United States, ranging from 20 percent in Nevada to 66 percent in Louisiana, in seven states there were no significant differences in breast cancer death rates between NHB and NHW women. In many of those states, the closing gap may reflect a lack of statistical power (small numbers of breast cancer deaths among black ). But in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware, the similar rates suggest equitable breast cancer outcomes are achievable.

"A large body of research suggests that the black-white breast cancer disparity results from a complex interaction of biologic and nonbiologic factors, including differences in stage at diagnosis, tumor characteristics, obesity, other health issues, as well as tumor characteristics, particularly a higher rate of triple negative cancer" said DeSantis. "But the substantial geographic variation in breast cancer death rates confirms the role of social and structural factors, and the closing disparity in several indicates that increasing access to health care to low-income populations can further progress the elimination of breast cancer disparities."

Explore further: CDC: breast cancer mortality higher in black women

More information: Carol E. DeSantis et al, Breast cancer statistics, 2017, racial disparity in mortality by state, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (2017). DOI: 10.3322/caac.21412

Related Stories

CDC: breast cancer mortality higher in black women

November 15, 2012
(HealthDay)—With earlier detection and better treatment, the mortality rate from breast cancer has fallen over the last two decades; black women, however, still die from the disease at a disproportionately higher rate than ...

Minority women less likely to get breast cancer screening

December 16, 2016
(HealthDay)—Black and Hispanic women are less likely than white women to be screened for breast cancer, a large review finds.

Mortality up with depression just before breast cancer diagnosis

April 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—Women with newly-developed depression before a breast cancer diagnosis have a modestly, but significantly, increased risk for death, according to a study published online April 7 in Cancer.

Study: Racial gap in breast cancer diagnoses has closed

October 29, 2015
For decades, breast cancer has been less common in black women than white women, yet killed black women at a higher rate.

Higher incidence of secondary breast cancer seen among black women regardless of age

September 19, 2011
The overall incidence of breast cancer is generally higher among white women than black women; however, the incidence of a second breast cancer in the opposite breast is higher among black women, according to a study presented ...

Higher odds of late breast cancer diagnosis in isolated white communities, researchers say

May 30, 2017
Living in a segregated white community has been associated with higher odds of being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, according to a recent study led by a researcher in the School of Public Health at Georgia State ...

Recommended for you

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine, researchers say

February 15, 2018
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or ...

Team paves the way to the use of immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors

February 15, 2018
In a short space of time, immunotherapy against cancer cells has become a powerful approach to treat cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. However, to date, most colon tumours appeared to be unresponsive to this kind ...

Can our genes help predict how women respond to ovarian cancer treatment?

February 15, 2018
Research has identified gene variants that play a significant role in how women with ovarian cancer process chemotherapy.

First comparison of common breast cancer tests finds varied accuracy of predictions

February 15, 2018
Commercially-available prognostic breast cancer tests show significant variation in their abilities to predict disease recurrence, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London of nearly 800 postmenopausal women.

Catching up to brain cancer: Researchers develop accurate model of how aggressive cancer cells move and spread

February 15, 2018
A brief chat at a Faculty Senate meeting put two University of Delaware researchers onto an idea that could be of great value to cancer researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.