Why black women should start breast cancer screening earlier —Physicians

Anthony Ademiluyi

Medical health experts have urged black women to embrace going for breast cancer earlier than their Caucasian counterparts, noting that a recent study has affirmed that it could help curb the incidence of breast cancer complications and deaths.

The physicians were reacting to a new study that suggested that black women were more prone to breast cancer than White women.

According to the physicians, the study has further confirmed that breast cancer in black women tends to be more aggressive hence the need for earlier screening to ensure better treatment outcomes.

The study, carried out by researchers from China, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway, analysed data on 415,277 women in the United States who died of breast cancer from 2011 to 2020.

That data on invasive breast cancer mortality rates came from the National Center for Health Statistics and was analysed with the National Cancer Institute’s SEER statistical software.

The study was published in the JAMA Network Open Journal. The guidelines which were put together by international researchers recommended that black women should screen for breast cancer at 42 instead of at 50.

Reacting to the study, the health experts noted that black women should even consider getting screened earlier than 42, noting for breast cancer for women should start from the age of 40 as against the age of 50 for their Caucasian counterparts.

The experts, a Consultant Medical Oncologist at the University of Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Leicester Cancer Research Centre, Dr. Olubukola Ayodele, and a Board Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Founder, Dietal Health Labs, Dr. Dr. Marvellous Njoku told PUNCH HealthWise that the earlier black women get screened for breast cancer, the better for them.

Dr. Ayodele stressed that breast cancer in young black women tends to have more aggressive biology noting that early detection is essential to allow curative outcomes.

Dr. Ayodele said, “One of the reasons for poor survival outcomes in these young black women is late presentation. They tend to have more advanced diseases (stages 2-4) before getting screened.

“Breast cancer screening with mammography usually starts at the age of 50 years in many countries. However, for black women, it has been advised to start earlier. Young women usually have denser breast tissue, sometimes making conventional mammography an adequate screening tool.

“In these younger women, ultrasound, MRI, or contrast-enhancing mammography are better ways for screening and identifying breast lumps”.

Breast cancer symptoms
Breast cancer symptoms

In her contribution, Dr. Njoku said is important to stress that breast cancer is also deadlier for black women than for any other race.

She stated that a study done in 2022 and presented at the endocrine society’s annual conference confirmed this, adding that some environmental factors have been linked with increased cases and severity of breast cancer in black women.

She noted cosmetics, hair dyes, and hair relaxers that black women use have been found to contain harmful stuff that may cause breast cancer in black women.

“That is why you see a lot of movements advising black women to go natural because there is now a link between breast cancer and cervical cancer in black women and hair dyes and hair relaxers.

“For genetics, this is where it gets interesting as there is no single gene that causes breast cancer rather there are genetic mutations and changes in genes that can increase the risks of breast cancer. Worldwide across all ethnic groups, there are gene mutations called BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation and they can be passed down through families. They can increase the risk of having breast cancer this is, however, true in both black and white women.”

The researchers in the new study examined the data by race, ethnicity, and age, they found that the rate of breast cancer deaths among women in their 40s was 27 deaths per 100,000 person-years for Black women compared with 15 deaths per 100,000 in White women and 11 deaths per 100,000 in American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women.

“When the breast cancer mortality rate for Black women in their 40s is 27 deaths per 100,000 person-years, this means 27 out of every 100,000 Black women aged 40-49 in the US die of breast cancer during one year of follow-up. In other words, 0.027% of Black women aged 40-49 die of breast cancer each year,” the researchers said.

The World Health Organisation in a report estimated that female breast cancer resulted in a total of 5,884,000 years of lives lost globally in 2004.

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