White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic, and Asian women. But African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age. African American women are also more likely to die from breast cancer. Some of these differences in outcomes may be due to less access to mammography and lower quality medical care, as well as various lifestyle patterns (eating habits and weight issues for example) that are more common in some ethnic groups than in others. These factors can be changed and improved.
Still, triple-negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive than other types, is more common in African American women. Triple-negative breast cancer is estrogen-receptor-negative, progesterone-receptor-negative, and HER2-negative. New treatments for triple-negative breast cancer are being studied in clinical trials. But African American women are under-represented in clinical trials and so may have less access to some of the most promising therapies.
Steps you can take
While you can't change your ethnicity, you can work to get better quality healthcare and better access to early detection tools that can improve your overall health as well as the outcomes of any breast cancer with which you may be diagnosed. Local service agencies or breast cancer support groups may be able to refer you to doctors. Your local hospital may offer low-cost mammograms. Your local American Cancer Society chapter may be a good place to start. It's also important for all women to learn about clinical trials for which they might be eligible. Visit the Breastcancer.org Clinical Trials page for more information.
In addition, you can make lifestyle choices that can keep your risk as low as it can be:
- maintaining a healthy weight
- exercising regularly
- limiting alcohol
- eating nutritious food
- never smoking (or quitting if you do smoke)
These are just a few of the steps you can take. Review the links on the left side of this page for more options.
Think Pink, Live Green: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer teaches you the biology of breast development and how modern life affects breast cancer risk. Download the PDF of the booklet to learn 31 risk-reducing steps you can take today.