Breast Cancer and Race
Interesting observations about the potential role of genetics in the racial differences seen in breast cancer patterns:
Based on similarities in breast cancer epidemiology between African-American women and women in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers propose that genetic factors play an important role in the racial differences in breast cancer burdens.
Although African-American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than White-American women, mortality rates from breast cancer are higher, Drs. Alero Fregene and Lisa A. Newman note in their report, published in the April 15th issue of Cancer.
They found that women in Africa had a 5 to 10 times lower incidence of breast cancer compared with westernized populations. The two researchers suggest that gynecologic and reproductive patterns within African populations that minimize estrogen exposure - such as late menarche, multiparity and prolonged lactation - as well as dietary factors may account for these differences.
However, breast cancer mortality rates are disproportionately high among African women. Although delayed presentation and limited therapeutic modalities may play a role, there may also be a predisposition to biologically aggressive tumors. The latter possibility is reflected in lower age of onset and advanced stage tumors, as is seen among African-American women.
"As research into interactions among tumor biology, genetics, and socioeconomics and/or lifestyle factors continues, medical professionals and researchers will be in a stronger position to address and to eradicate the disproportionate breast cancer burden that currently affects African-American women," the authors conclude.