“It’s Systemic Racism” The Breast Cancer Racial Gap Widens
We’ve known for some time that there are racial differences between the way black women and white women experience breast cancer. Black women are often diagnosed later than white women and have a higher mortality rate.
One would think with all the advances in technology that these type of issues would become less of a problem. But that’s not so.
The New York Times is reporting that the breast cancer racial gap is widening across the country, proving that improvements in treatment and research continue to exclude African-American women.
An analysis of the trends in 41 of the largest cities in the United States show that mortality is largely related to skin color. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman.
These findings were compiled and analyzed by the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago. It is a part of a series of studies that highlight the glaring racial gap in cancer mortality.
It expounds upon a study that compared breast cancer deaths from 1990 to 2009 in 41 cities.
Steve Whitman, the director of Sinai Urban Health Institute had this to say about the study, “It’s absolutely startling and very dismal, because there is hardly any health measure in the United States that hasn’t improved in the last 20 years.”
Death rates among both black and white women declined overall but death rates among white women decreased twice as much as black women.
Researchers said this is due to lower access to screening, less access to treatment and lower quality treatment for black women.
The findings of the study prompted Whitman to speculate about why the healthcare system seems to discriminate against black women with breast cancer.
“It’s undeniable that this is systemic racism. I don’t mean that a bad person is at the door personally keeping women out, but the system is arranged in such a way that it’s allowing white women access to the important gains we’ve made since 1990 in terms of breast health, and black women have not been able to gain access to these advances.”
The research also debunked the notion that black women face a higher risk of obtaining breast cancer because of genetic differences. While black women are at greater risks for some types of cancers, it doesn’t explain the widening mortality gap.
Whitman said, “Mathematically, it can’t be anything genetic,” Dr. Whitman said. “How could genes change in 20 years?”
The next step is to identify the factors that contribute to the problem. The cities that have the largest disparities are Memphis, Los Angeles, Wichita, Houston, Boston, Denver, Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas and Indianapolis.