- Breast cancer death rates dropped for all women between 2010 and 2014, but racial disparities continue, especially among older women, according to a new study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
- Among women under age 50, the rate of decrease was the same. But for women age 60 to 69, the decline in death rates was 2% per year for whites compared with 1% per year for black women.
- Overall, breast cancer death rates fell slightly faster among white women than black women — 1.9% per year versus 1.5% per year.
The fact that fewer women are dying could be due to better education about early breast cancer screening and treatment options, as well as increased access to personalized medicine, the authors say.
“The good news is that overall rates of breast cancer are decreasing among black women," said Jacqueline Miller, one of the authors of the study, and medical director of CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. "However, when compared with white women, the likelihood that a black woman will die after a breast cancer diagnosis is still considerably higher.”
Community-based cancer control efforts can help to ensure that women who are diagnosed with cancer get proper follow-up and treatment, the authors say. Women can also reduce their risk by knowing their family’s cancer history, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet and weight.
Obesity has been known to raise the risk of breast cancer. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, postmenopausal breast cancer showed a strong connection to fat.
In January, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new breast cancer screening guidelines recommending mammograms every two years for women beginning at age 50 and saying they should be optional for women in their 40s. The recommendations put the government at odds with American Cancer Society guidelines published a year ago that recommend yearly mammograms for women ages 45 to 54 who have an average risk of breast cancer.
Earlier this year, researchers in the UK published results of an analysis of the genome sequences of 560 breast cancers to understand the mutations. They identified 93 protein-coding cancer genes as probable breast cancer driver mutations. They planned to share the results with research centers and drug companies to develop more targeted treatments.