Breast Cancer in African American Women

African American Women Face Higher Risk

Although white women are more likely than other population groups to develop breast cancer, African American women bear a greater burden from the disease – they are more likely to die from breast cancer than other racial and ethnic minorities. Locally, we know that women of color in Buffalo and Erie County are diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages than their white counterparts. The causes of these breast cancer disparities are varied and speculative, and the subject of ongoing research here at Roswell Park. Some of the factors that may play a role include:

  • African American women tend to get more aggressive subtypes of breast cancer, such as triple-negative breast cancer.
  • African American women tend to develop breast cancer at a younger age. Premenopausal breast cancer also tends to be more aggressive, is more likely to recur, and when it does recur, it’s more difficult to cure.
  • Gaps in care, such as a delay in start of treatment or women not being offered the same treatment options at the same time.
  • Issues of mistrust by women of color with the medical establishment, which can impact care as well. 
  • Genetic differences between races

A breakthrough discovery in this research was the finding that African American women who breastfed their babies were less likely to develop the aggressive triple negative subtype of the disease. Learn more about how breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk.

Worried about your breast cancer risk? Complete our online Risk Assessment form as a first step toward understanding your personal risk level.