The American Cancer Society said in a new report that as of 2015, white women have a 39% greater chance of surviving breast cancer than black women.
The study noted that while deaths from breast cancer declined overall by nearly 40% between 1989 and 2015, the racial disparity that first presented itself in the early 1980s has widened.
In 2015, less than 20 out of every 100,000 white women with breast cancer died, while nearly 30 black women were killed by the disease.
White women, however, have higher rates of the disease and die more often from it than Native American, Latina and Asian women do.
Black women are currently getting more mammograms than they did in the past and more often than white women do now, but the low number of screens they had in the past “may be one possible reason for the difference in survival rates today,” the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer foundation website says.
There are biological differences between the kinds of breast cancer that women of different races tend to get. The aggressive triple-negative form of breast cancer is two times as likely to affect black women. And the cancer drug tamoxifen, a powerful tool in preventing death, only treats hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer — a kind that black women don’t typically experience.
There’s also a racial disparity surrounding access to follow-up care and appointments as well, HuffPost reported, as well as location, employment and poverty barriers.
“Things like transportation for cancer treatment can be a barrier,” Roswell Park Cancer institute chair Christine Ambrosone told the news site. “Particularly for women who need radiation therapy — a treatment that needs to be given daily — and who cannot get that time off from work.”
The study said that only Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware have a narrower gap between the numbers of black and white women who die from breast cancer. This could be because of measures like the 2006 law that Massachusetts passed that requires all state citizens to have health care coverage. There’s also the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program that helps women in poverty get the screenings they need.
“These (study) results show that we need to advocate for one another, as individuals and communities, to try to eliminate these inequalities in diagnosis and care, Ambrosone said.