Breast Cancer Diagnosis Gap Now Gone

While breast cancer is a legitimate concern for all women regardless of race and even age, whites historically have had a higher incident rate of this potentially fatal disease. That’s no longer the case, however, according to a recently released study published by the American Cancer Society.

Researchers found that the gap in diagnosis rates between the two races essentially closed between 2008 and 2012 in the United States. In 2012, in fact, the breast cancer incident rate for white women was 135 cases per 100,000 women. The rate was 135.2 cases per 100,000 black women in that same year.

The gap has been evidenced in incidence rates since about 1975. While the overall number of diagnosed cases in whites has remained relatively stable, the rates of diagnosis for black women climbed by about 0.4% a year between 2008 and 2012.

Researchers are not entirely sure what’s driving the higher diagnosis rates in the black population, but they do have some ideas. Increased screening is not seen as a likely explanation. Obesity, however, may play a role, researchers said, since it is linked to post-menopausal breast cancer. The obesity rate has continued to increase in black women, but has mostly leveled off in whites, they said.

Although the full implications of the numbers and the likelihood they may continue to rise remain unclear, the findings point to the importance for all women to undergo routine screening for this disease. Breast cancer is estimated to strike about 246,000 American women each year in its invasive form. About 40,000 women die annually from this disease in the United States.

Women who are age 40 or over are urged to talk about undergoing mammograms with their healthcare providers. Other screening procedures may also be recommended. The best recommendations, however, will come from a doctor who has information about a woman’s individual risk factors and personal medical history.

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