Racial and Ethnic Differences
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among nearly every racial and ethnic group, including African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latina women. Race is not considered a factor that might increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. However, the rate of developing and dying from breast cancer differs among ethnic groups. This may be due to differences in specific risk factors, the biology of breast cancer or due to breast cancer screening rates and treatment. The differences in screening rates could be due to the cost of health insurance and/or lack of awareness about screening tests and access to screening facilities.
Incidence and Trends
White women are diagnosed with breast cancer more frequently than any other racial or ethnic group.1 However, among women under age 40; African American women have a higher incidence rate of breast cancer than white women. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors than White women. Hispanic/Latina women have a lower incidence rate of breast cancer than White women, but Hispanic/Latina women are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and late stage breast cancer than White women.
When Asian women migrate to the U.S., their risk of developing breast cancer increases up to six-fold. Asian immigrant women living in the U.S. for as little as a decade had an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer than new immigrants.
Survival rates are determined by the percentage of people who are alive five years after the time of their diagnosis. All racial and ethnic groups are less likely than White women to survive for five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
The five-year survival rates for:
- White women is 90 percent
- African American women is 78 percent, lower than that of any other ethnic and racial group in the U.S.
- Hispanic/Latina women is 86 percent
- Asian women is 91 percent
- Pacific Islander women is 86 percent
- American Indian/Alaska Native women is 84 percent
This difference may be explained by differences in breast cancer screening practices among the groups, stage at diagnosis, and/or biology of the tumor and treatment. Studies looking at possible genetic links to increased mortality are ongoing. Mammograms and clinical breast exams help to detect breast cancer at earlier stages, when there are more treatment options and the chance of survival is better.
Even though White women get breast cancer at higher rates; African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer. Studies have found that African American women often have aggressive tumors associated with poorer prognosis (expected outcome). Hispanic/Latina women are also more likely to die from breast cancer than White women. Some ethnic and racial groups have been less likely to receive breast cancer screening, and thus their breast cancers are often diagnosed at later stages. This later diagnosis increases the chance of dying from breast cancer.
Men and Breast Cancer
Even though breast cancer is men is rare, it still happens. Men have breast tissue just like women and therefore, can be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Because breast cancer is much more common in women, many men do not even realize they can develop this disease. This can delay diagnosis and as a result, some cancers are not found until they have progressed to a later stage. Because the male breast is much smaller than the female breast, it is more likely the disease will spread to the chest wall. Therefore, it is important to find the cancer early for successful treatment. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Lump in chest area
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Nipple changes