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Black Cancer-Death Disparities: Why the Difference?

Black Cancer-Death Disparities: Why the Difference?

It’s unacceptable that we still can’t explain why African Americans have higher cancer-death rates than whites, physician Michelle A. Gourdine writes at Zocala Public Square.

… Take breast cancer, for example. Although Black and White women get mammograms at equal rates, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed in later, less curable stages of the disease and more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast tumors (a highly aggressive form of the disease that does not respond well to standard treatment). But we still don’t know why. We also have not fully explained the fact that although Black women overall are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, those under the age of 40 are more likely to be diagnosed than White women …

We must explore more thoroughly the unique biological, emotional, and cultural factors that influence how African-Americans of all socioeconomic levels cope with cancer, interact with the medical system, and respond to treatment. When we assume that the poor health of African-Americans is primarily related to poverty and lack of access to healthcare, we run the risk of ignoring other crucial factors. Once we improve our knowledge base, we can reduce the high cancer fatality rate of African-Americans.

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