understanding the breast cancer disparities black women face

12 Aug 2020

Breast cancer affects all populations, but African American women are more likely to die1 from the disease than any other racial or ethnic group. This unsettling fact is the result of numerous health disparities faced by Black women every day. Here’s a quick glance at why these disparities exist and what we can do about them.

the startling reality

African American women have the highest breast cancer death rate of all racial and ethnic groups. And although incidence rates are similar to those of white women, Black women have a much higher mortality rate. In fact, they are 42 percent more likely to die from the disease.1 And if that’s not upsetting enough, while the cases of breast cancer in white women have stabilized in recent years, the cases among Black women continue to rise.2

how did we get here?

The reasons for these disparities are complex and multifaceted, but both genetic and socioeconomic factors are believed to play significant roles. Some socioeconomic factors that may be to blame include poor screening, inadequate care, unequal access to treatment and lack of education.3,4

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support those creating change

Since so many factors can cause breast cancer disparities, addressing them is not as straightforward as we’d all like. One thing we can all do is support breast cancer organizations helping communities of color. Sisters Network, Inc. is a good start. A national African American breast cancer survivorship organization, they work to educate Black women about their unique risks and eliminate the disparity.

look out for each other

We are a powerful community of women. Let’s show up for each other—whether that means calling a friend and encouraging her to get screened or posting on social media about bridging the gap in treatment. Educate, advocate and speak up whenever possible. Sure, the issue is much larger than any one of us, but we all have an obligation to demand equal access to quality breast healthcare for all our fellow women.



  1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2016-2018. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2016.
  2. SEER Cancer Statistics Factsheets: Female Breast Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html
  3. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/disparities
  4. https://www.cancer.net/blog/2020-06/cancer-does-not-affect-all-people-equally-expert-qa-cancer-disparities-and-health-equity

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