New research has found that African-American women who contract breast cancer before reaching menopause are more than twice as likely as white women to have an aggressive, deadlier form of the disease.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe the higher rates of basal-like cancer among younger black women partly explains why blacks are at greater risk of dying from breast cancer than white women, despite having a lower overall risk of the disease.
Study author Dr. Lisa Carey says it is unclear why younger African-American women are more prone to the aggressive form of breast cancer and it presents a challenge.
For the study 500 breast cancer cases were examined and it was found that 39 percent of black women patients had the basal-like form of the disease, compared to 16 percent of the white women of any age and 14 percent of post-menopausal black women.
The researchers say there are several types of breast cancer and basal-like tumors which are aggressive and difficult to treat, have poor relapse and survival rates.
A year ago, the same team identified the more aggressive basal-like subtype of breast cancer which is a new type of breast cancer.
However this type of cancer is sensitive to chemotherapy drugs so early detection is vital.
Such cancers account for between 15 percent and 20 percent of breast cancers and some cases are associated with the BRCA-1 gene mutation that increases a woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer.