The death rate from breast cancer keeps falling, but Black women continue to be 40% more likely to die from the disease despite a lower incidence of it. Photo by Rhoda Baer/Wikimedia Commons
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The death rate from breast cancer continues to decline, according to a new report Monday from the American Cancer Society. But there's a wide, worrisome gap in Black women's outcomes that remains unchanged.
Breast cancer death rates dropped by 43% from 1989 to 2020, according to the report. That translates to more than 460,000 fewer breast cancer deaths over that period, thanks to earlier detection via screening, increased awareness and treatment advances.
However, Black women continue to be 40% more likely to die from the disease despite a lower incidence of it.
The findings are outlined in the latest edition of the American Cancer Society's Breast Cancer Statistics, 2022, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
For consumers, there is a companion report, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2022-2024, available on cancer.org.
Despite continued progress in reducing the risk of death from breast cancer, there is "an alarming persistent gap" for Black women, which is not new and not explained by more aggressive cancer, Rebecca Siegel, the report's senior author and senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, said in a news release.
Siegel added: "We have been reporting this same disparity year after year for a decade. It is time for health systems to take a hard look at how they are caring differently for Black women."
To help close the gap, the American Cancer Society urged increasing funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a 30-year-old program jointly funded by federal and state governments to improve access to screenings.
Despite the overall declining death rate, roughly 287,850 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and 43,250 will die from the disease in 2022, the American Cancer Society predicted.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women after skin cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women overall, after lung cancer, according to group.
But breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Black and Hispanic women.
Highlighting the racial disparity that has persisted since 2011, the cancer society said Black women have lower breast cancer incidence than White women at 127.8 cases per 100,000 women versus. 133.7 cases per 100,000), respectively.
But Black women's breast cancer mortality is 27.6 per 100,000, compared with 19.7 per 100,000 for White women.
The difference is even more striking among women under 50: Black women's death rate from breast cancer two-fold higher than White women's, at 12.1 versus 6.5 per 100,000, respectively.
Moreover, the report says Black women are least likely of any racial or ethnic group to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a localized stage, before it spreads: at 57% compared with 68% in White women.
The cancer organization noted that the pace of decline in breast cancer death rates has slowed from 1.9% annually from 2002 to 2011 to 1.3% annually from 2011 to 2020, which it said may partly reflect an increased incidence of the disease.
The group attributed the slow decline in breast cancer mortality during the most recent period partly to "stagnant screening uptake and suboptimal receipt of timely and high-quality treatment."
"Coordinated and concerted efforts by policy makers and healthcare systems and providers are needed to provide optimal breast cancer care to all populations, including expansion of Medicaid in the non-expansion southern and Midwest states, where Black women are disproportionately represented, Ahmedin Jemal, contributing author of the study, said in the release.
Jemal is senior vice president of the American Cancer Society's Surveillance & Health Equity Science Department.
Angela Giaquinto, an associate scientist in surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, is the report's lead author.