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Breast Cancer Now Leading Cause Of Cancer Death For Black Women In Georgia
Breast cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death for black women in six states including Georgia, according to the American Cancer Society. The other five states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina. Previously, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death.
Overall, breast cancer death rates have consistently declined since 1989, but incidence or frequency of diagnosis is on the rise, according to the latest Breast Cancer Facts & Figures.Dr. Veena Rao of Morehouse School of Medicine speaks about disparities among women with breast cancer. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
In 2019, approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States, and 41,760 women will die from the disease, according to the Society.
Dr. Veena Rao, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Morehouse School of Medicine, who was not involved in the American Cancer Society report, said she has been studying the BRCA 1 gene since its discovery in 1994. Mutation of this gene leads to triple negative breast cancer and the mortality for African American women has been high, she said.
Socioeconomic status also plays a role, Rao said, because women without access to healthcare may not learn about the cancer until after it's had time to spread, at which time the cancers are more often deadly.
"It's all early detection," Rao said. "And if you have a family history, then you can get tested early to see whether that particular mutation is there in the family."
Type 2 diabetes and dense breasts are additional risk factors for black women being diagnosed with breast cancer, Rao said.
Principal Scientist in the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program at the American Cancer Society Carol DeSantis is the lead author on "Breast Cancer Statistics," a new report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
DeSantis said in the release that part of the reason for the slowing of the decline in breast cancer mortality could come from the slight increase in incidence since 2004. The breast cancer incidence rate has continued to slowly increase by 0.3% per year since 2004, largely because of rising rates of local stage and hormone receptor-positive (HR+) disease.
Also, she said, optimal breast cancer treatment has become more widespread, particularly among white women.
“More can and should be done to ensure that all women have access to quality care to help eliminate disparities and further reduce breast cancer mortality,” DeSantis said.
According to The Komen Atlanta 2015 Community Profile, black women in the greater Atlanta area are 30% more likely than white women to have breast cancer diagnosed at a later stage and are 45% more likely to die of breast cancer.
The latest data shows that the speed of the decreasing mortality rate is largely driven by the trend in white women and that the disparity between deaths from breast cancer between black and white women has grown since 2011.
From 2013 to 2017, black women had a 40% higher mortality rate than white women. This disparity is magnified among black women under 50.
The Georgia House in February passed a bill aimed at protecting women’s health when it comes to early detection of breast cancer.
Health & Human Services Committee Chair Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) sponsored HB 62, which requires doctors to notify mammography patients of their breast density.
About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.