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February 4, 2008

Black History Month a time to discuss breast cancer risks

Feb. 12 event to address the effects of breast cancer on black women

Ann Arbor, MI – Although the overall incidence of breast cancer in black women is lower than in white women, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts.

Black History MonthIn order to address the disproportionate effects of breast cancer on black women, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center will sponsor “Black Women and Breast Cancer” (PDF) on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The event will be held at the Marriott Conference Center, 1275 South Huron St., in Ypsilanti. Discussion will primarily focus on prevention, early diagnosis and general breast care. A reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the main event from 7-9 p.m.

Lisa Newman, M.D., director of the U-M Breast Care Center, will be the featured speaker at the event. Newman, an associate professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School, conducts research on racial disparities in breast cancer and serves as chief national medical advisor for the Sisters Network Inc., a national African American breast cancer survivors support organization.

Aisha Langford, minority outreach coordinator at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, notes that the Feb. 12 event is important because the sharing of information about prevention and early diagnosis gives women a chance to take on a more active role in their health and in their health decisions.

“This is an opportunity for African American women to learn more about breast cancer and why it affects them disproportionately,” explains Langford. “This is a big issue, and we want to share education with women that can help them detect signs and symptoms early so they can receive proper care as soon as possible.”

While the reasons for the lower survival rate among black women are not fully understood, recent research by Newman and others is shedding light on why the disparity occurs. For instance, researchers from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center recently found that black women in the United States are more likely to have breast tumors that are not fueled by estrogen, so-called estrogen–receptor, or ER, negative tumors. This essentially means that black women are more prone than white women to have a more aggressive, less treatable form of breast cancer.

Black women have a higher incidence of breast cancer at younger ages and are diagnosed at later stages of disease. Much of this discrepancy has been attributed to socioeconomic factors such as access to screening and adequate cancer care. But this recent study suggests that there is also a biological basis for differences in survival rates.

Women of all backgrounds are encouraged to discuss breast cancer risk factors with their doctor. These factors include family history, older age, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and tobacco use. Women over 40 are also encouraged to have a mammogram once a year.

To register for “Black Women and Breast Cancer,” call Aisha Langford at 734-998-7073 or e-mail alangfor@umich.edu. Childcare will be available at this free event, and door prizes, refreshments and a Black History contest will also be featured.

To learn more about the event or for information about breast cancer treatment options at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit www.mcancer.org or call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125.

 

Written by: Laura Drouillard

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