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Five Black Women Die Needlessly Per Day from Breast Cancer in the United States

Study on Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Presented at Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum

New York, NY (March 21, 2012) /PRNewswire/ — Nearly five black women die needlessly per day from breast cancer in the United States – a total of 1,722  deaths annually – according to a study released today at the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum and simultaneously published in Cancer Epidemiology. The 2012 Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study found that 21 of the 25* largest U.S. cities have a black: white disparity in breast cancer mortality, 13 of which are statistically significant.

2012 Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study
The study, conducted by Sinai Urban Health Institute and funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, is the first national study to examine the racial disparity in breast cancer mortality at the city level in the United States. The researchers analyzed breast cancer deaths reported between 2005-2007 against seven societal (ecological) risk factors, including race, poverty level and racial residential segregation. The authors conclude that societal issues such as poverty and racial inequities cause most of the disparity and genetic factors comprise a very small portion of the disparity.

The black: white disparity reflects the difference between the Non-Hispanic White and Non-Hispanic Black breast cancer mortality rates in the cities analyzed. In some cities, such as Detroit, where the white and black breast cancer mortality rates are both high, practically no disparity exists. If the disparity ratio is more than 1, then the black rate is higher; if the ratio is less than 1, then the white rate is higher. The number of excess deaths is a function of two factors: the size of the disparity and the size of the population of the city. Thus, although New York City has a very small disparity (1.24), the number of excess deaths from this disparity is 70 because of the large population size.  Chicago is much smaller than New York City, but its disparity (1.62) is much larger, resulting in a similar number of excess deaths (76).

Study Key Findings

“Our research shows societal factors – not genetics – are largely to blame for the racial disparity in breast cancer mortality nationwide,” said Steve Whitman, Ph.D., director of Sinai Urban Health Institute and the study’s lead author. “When a woman believes genetics causes her disease, it breeds a sense of hopelessness and fear. Our study proves that black women can play an active role in reducing their risk of dying from breast cancer by getting screened and following through with treatment. But it’s incumbent on society to improve access to quality mammography and to ensure that breast cancer treatment is available to all women, including the under- and un-insured.”

Recommendations to Prevent Breast Cancer Deaths
Following a 2007 Sinai Urban Health Institute study that produced alarming data on the racial disparity in Chicago’s breast cancer mortality, the Avon Foundation funded the establishment of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force to address the disparity.  The Task Force issued recommendations to improve screening quality and reduce disparities in Chicago that can be applied to other cities.

Four key recommendations to prevent breast cancer deaths are:

  1. Ensure all women understand the importance of breast health screening
    • Women must be educated using culturally relevant breast health information through various methods, such as hotlines, multi-lingual websites, and education in local communities and places of worship. In Chicago, the Avon Foundation has funded hospital kiosks that produce a personalized breast health information brochure based on information a woman enters. A phone attached to the kiosk enables the woman to immediately schedule her mammogram.
  2. Ensure all women have access to early detection programs and screening
  3. Improve the quality of breast cancer screenings for all women
    • Improve screening quality by having health care organizations work together to create consortiums to ensure all breast centers are measured for quality, as well as establish best practices for diagnosis and follow-up tests. Organizations should also replace old mammography equipment with high-quality digital machines.
  4. Ensure all women who need treatment receive high-quality treatment in a timely manner and are completing the recommended therapy
    • The Avon Foundation has funded patient navigators at hospitals across the country that care for uninsured and under-insured women.  Navigation programs have helped encourage early detection, decrease stage at diagnosis, decrease delays in care and improve quality and coordination of care.

Avon Foundation Efforts To End Breast Cancer
Across the United States, the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade has donated nearly $445 million to beneficiaries ranging from leading cancer centers to community-based grassroots breast health programs to support breast cancer research and access to care.  Avon raises funds for the Crusade through the sale of Avon “Pink Ribbon” products and events such as the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which is the Foundation’s largest fund-raising source.

“For 20 years the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade’s mission has been to ensure all women, regardless of their race, income level and ability to pay, have access to the best quality breast health care. Although we have made much progress in this mission, the results of the 2012 Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study demonstrate that we still have much more work to do. Access to quality care is a matter of life or death for far too many U.S. women and the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade will persevere until all women have access to the advances made possible by improved breast cancer screening and treatment,” said Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., executive director of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

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About the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum
Drs. Whitman and Hurlbert announced the Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study at the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum, which convened more than 275 Avon Foundation-funded community health educators, patient navigators, nurses and physicians from all 50 states to discuss early detection programs and breast cancer treatment. For more information about the Forum, please visit, http://www.avonfoundation.org/programs-and-events/breast-cancer-forum.html.

About the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade
The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which commemorates its 20th anniversary in 2012, has placed Avon at the forefront of the fight against breast cancer; today, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally. In the 20 years since the Crusade’s launch, Avon breast cancer programs in 58 countries have donated more than $740 million for research and advancing access to care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. Avon awards funding to beneficiaries ranging from leading cancer centers to community-based grassroots breast health programs to support breast cancer research and access to care. The Crusade has enabled more than 17 million women globally to receive free mammograms and breast cancer screenings, educated more than 100 million women about breast cancer, and funded promising research into the causes of breast cancer and ways to prevent the disease. Avon raises funds for the Crusade through the sale of Avon “Pink Ribbon” products, and through events such as the U.S. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which is the Foundation’s largest fund-raising source.

About Sinai Health System
For over 90 years the hospitals and caregivers of Sinai Health System have provided medical care and social services to communities in west and south Chicago. Situated in a five square block area, the Sinai hospitals include Mount Sinai Hospital, Sinai Children’s Hospital, and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital offering general acute, specialty, and rehabilitation care and exceeding industry quality standards. Sinai Medical Group physicians see patients at the Touhy and Lawndale Plaza Clinics. Sinai Community Institute provides social service outreach for lifestyle issues that contribute to health while Sinai Urban Health Institute researches the prevalence of chronic disease in Chicago neighborhoods. Collectively these organizations and the caregivers who staff them support the Sinai vision of being the national model for delivery of urban health care. www.sinai.org.

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The Avon Foundation for Women thanks Avon Breast Cancer Forum Presenting Sponsor, Eisai Inc. and
Supporting Sponsors Genomic Health and ImpediMed, Inc.

* Data only available for 24 of the 25 cities

Media Contact:

Karyn Margolis
Sr. Manager, PR & Communications
Avon Foundation for Women
212-282-5666
karyn.margolis@avon.com

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Related Links

Avon Foundation for Women
Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Sinai Urban Health Institute

Related Documents

2012 Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study
Improving Quality and Reducing Disparities in Breast Cancer Mortality in Metropolitan Chicago
American Society Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2011-2012
Avon Foundation Breast Health Resource Guide (English)
Avon Foundation Breast Health Resource Guide (Spanish)

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