Regular mammography screening can help narrow racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes

Published on September 26, 2012 at 2:01 AM · No Comments

Regular mammography screening can help narrow the breast cancer gap between black and white women, according to a retrospective study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in August.

Earlier studies have shown that black women in Chicago are more than twice as likely to die of breast cancer compared to white women. Black women with breast cancer reach the disease's late stages more often than white women, and their tumors are more likely to be larger and more biologically aggressive.

But according to the study, when women of both races received regular breast cancer screening - a mammogram within two years of breast cancer diagnosis - there was no difference in the rate of how many of them presented in the disease's later stages.

The data result from a retrospective study conducted of women diagnosed with breast cancer from January 2001 to December 2006 at Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Data were collected on 1,642 subjects, including 980 who were regularly screened and 662 who were irregularly screened.

"This study reinforces the fact that racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes can be improved," said lead author Dr. Paula Grabler, an assistant professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a radiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "One solution within reach is simple access to routine and regular mammography screening."

One notable finding was that women screened regularly, regardless of race, were more likely to have hormone receptor-positive breast cancers than those who did not receive regular screenings. Breast cancers that are hormone receptor-positive contain receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, making them more responsive to hormone therapy such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors and leads to a better survival. This finding was statistically significant in black women, suggesting that early detection can blunt the development of negative prognostic biological characteristics in some women.

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