Preliminary Data Reinforces Need for African- American Women to Get Screening Mammograms

The following is a guest post from Elissa Price, M.D., a specialist in Breast Imaging at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion.

Data from a recent study suggests that secondary breast cancer diagnosis rates in the US are higher among African-American women than Caucasian women.  This is consistent with our current knowledge about breast cancer in this demographic group and reinforces the need for African-American women to get screening mammograms.

The data was presented in September 2011 at the annual Science of Cancer Health Disparities Conference of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

While the data was reported as a presentation, and has not yet appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, the information potentially furthers our understanding of breast cancer in African-American women.  It suggests a higher risk for metachronous contralateral malignancy; that is, women who have already had breast cancer developing an additional cancer later in life in the opposite breast.

This suggestion is in line with what we already know about African-American women and breast cancer.  African American women develop cancer at an earlier age, their tumors tend to be aggressive, and they are more likely to die from their breast cancer than their Caucasian counterparts.  Unfortunately, statistics also show that when compared with Caucasian Americans, approximately fifteen percent fewer African-American women make use of medical imaging exams for screening mammograms.

The limited data from this study reinforces our belief in the importance of:  1) screening for breast cancer annually starting at age 40 with mammography, 2) close clinical and imaging surveillance for those with a prior breast cancer diagnosis, and 3) particular adherence to these recommendations for African-American women.

For more information about mammography services at UCSF, please see here.