Although black women are less likely than white women to get breast cancer, they still experience higher rates of breast cancer deaths. According to the CDC, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for black women ages 45 to 64 years, and that the breast cancer death rate for women ages 45 to 64 was 60 percent higher for black women than white women — 56.8 and 35.6 deaths per 100,000, respectively. Now there is even more dire news.
New research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found an increase in advanced breast cancer among women under 40. The study examined the rates of breast cancer among U.S. women ages 25 to 39 between 1976 and 2009. Specifically, the authors reviewed a U.S. government database of cancer cases from 1976 to 2009. Results suggest that that in the mid-1970s an average of 250 young women per year were diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, meaning the disease had progressed to distant parts of the body compared to more than 800 in 2009.
Overall breast cancer rates have been dropping in the U.S. However, tumors found in young women are frequently more aggressive and grow unchecked because young women are not screened for cancer as regularly as older women. About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, but only 1 in 173 will develop the disease before age 40. Routine mammograms are recommended for older women, but not for women under 40.
There are still questions about the cause of increase. Some believe it is the result of higher rates of obesity in America, while others say it is due to women putting off having a baby until later in life.