Women of African Heritage May Face Greater Breast Cancer Risk

July 24, 2010  |  

by Alan Mozes, MSN.com

Women of African heritage bear a greater risk for a more aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer, new research suggests.

In the study, doctors from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center looked at three groups of breast cancer patients: African-American women, white women and African women.

More than a quarter of the African-American women with breast cancer had the so-called “triple negative” version of the disease — a designation that refers to a trio of affected hormone receptors that can sometimes serve as targets for treatment.

By comparison, just 16 percent of the white women with breast cancer had this particularly aggressive version of breast cancer, while among African women that figure skyrocketed to 82 percent.

The observation builds on previous evidence that while black women face a generally lower risk for breast cancer in general, when the disease does strike, it does so at an earlier age and with more deadly results.

“The most significant recent advances in breast cancer treatment have involved targeting these three receptors,” study author Dr. Lisa A. Newman, director of the Breast Care Center at the cancer center, explained in a university news release. “But these treatments do not help women with triple-negative breast cancer. Outcome disparities are therefore likely to increase, because fewer African-American women are candidates for these newer treatments.”

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