Breast Cancer's Big Racial Divide

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 10/02/2014 | 03:45 PM EDT

Though the disease affects millions of women nationally, African-American women are most at risk

While the month of October is often met with pink galore for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the reality for the millions of women affected by the disease is far from pretty.


In 2014, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States alone, according to BreastCancer.org. But for African-American women, the cancer is far more deadly.


Though white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than Black women, it is far more common among women of color under 45. Not to mention, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. A recent analysis of breast cancer mortality trends in 41 cities in the U.S. found that Black women are about 40 percent more likely to die to be exact.


So why is it that African-American are most susceptible to breast cancer?


BLACK WOMEN WHO DON'T BREASTFEED AT RISK FOR BREAST CANCER


Researchers say the racial divide is a result of African-American women having less access to screening, lower-quality screening, less access to treatment and lower-quality treatment.


However, experts are quick to dispel the belief that Black women are more at risk because of genetic differences from non-Black women. In fact, not even family history is an accurate way to make sense of one’s susceptibility to the disease. About 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.


Unfortunately the numbers don’t lie: about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Early detection is literally life saving.


Regularly checking your breast for lumps, and getting mammograms is key. You can also try to minimize risk factors such as controlling your weight, healthy dieting, exercising, drinking and smoking less, among other things.


So while you’re flaunting pink ribbon and fashionable accessories, be sure to spread word. Let’s build a community of support and awareness so that less of our beautiful women of color are losing the battle against breast cancer.


For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness visit BreastCancer.org

 (Photos from left: Pink Ribbon International, Ranplett/Getty Images)

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