The news this Breast Cancer Awareness Month is particularly concerning for Black women. The latest research from the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that Black women are 41% more likely to die of breast cancer than White women, making breast cancer the leading cause of death for black women.
As frightening as the statistic may seem, it may help to gain some perspective on the new study. The 41% number does not reflect a significant change in breast cancer mortality rates among Black women. The rate appears higher because it is being compared to a decline in death rates for other types of cancer measured by the ACS. And, there is a great deal you can do to protect yourself.
Overall, Black women have a slightly lower (4%) rate of breast cancer than White women, but a complex combination of factors contribute to our higher mortality rates from the disease.
Black women are more likely to develop breast cancer at a younger age, have forms of the disease that are harder to treat, such as triple negative breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, and less likely to have access to the best treatments and early detection. Systemic racism and many of the socioeconomic challenges that accompany being Black in America also play a role.
Armed with these realities, however, every Black woman has an opportunity to lower her personal risk of breast cancer by practicing prevention, starting mammograms at age 40 or earlier, and becoming an informed advocate for her own health.
Latoya Williams story is a great example of how to take charge of your breast health.
Sheree Crute is editor of Fierce for Black Women.com