Breast Cancer - Risk Based on Race, Nationality and Ethnicity

All women should know their risk for breast cancer which can affect women of every age, race and ethnic group. No one is safe. However, the rates of developing and dying from breast cancer vary among various racial and ethnic groups.

Here are the known risk factors for being statistically more likely to have breast cancer:

  • Being female. Only 1% of breast cancers are in men.

  • Getting older. The longer you are alive, the more likely it is that something will happen.

  • Having a family history of breast cancer. You should get a BRCA test if this is the case.

  • Having a personal history of cancer in one breast.

  • Having your first child after age 30 or never having children.

  • Getting your period early in life (before age 12).

  • Reaching menopause after age 55.

  • Being overweight (especially in the waist).

  • Long term use of combined (estrogen and progestin) - hormones, the Pill.

  • Being a carrier of an altered form of the breast cancer gene, BRCA1 or BRCA2.

According to the National Cancer Institute:

  • White, non-Hispanic, women have the highest overall incidence rate for breast cancer among U.S. racial/ethnic groups.

  • Korean American women have the lowest rate.

  • Among women ages 40-50, African American women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than do white women.

  • African American women also have the highest mortality rate from breast cancer. The higher death rate from breast cancer among African American women has been linked to the stage, or extent, of the cancer at diagnosis. Studies show that African American women tend to seek treatment when their cancer is in a more advanced, less treatable stage. This is definitely something that can be changed.

  • Chinese American women have the lowest death rate.
Women who do not have a family doctor that they visit on an annual basis for screenings and check-ups are more likely to discover their breast cancer at a more advanced stage. This contributes to a higher death rate. Unfortunately, not having or seeing a regular doctor is linked to certain groups.

Factors that interfere with getting regular, proper care from a doctor include lack of transportation, too high co-pays for visits, poverty, lack of health insurance, and no nearby health care facilities or screening programs. A language barrier between the women and her doctor can interfere or inhibit a person's ability to discuss health concerns.

Education plays a part, too. Women who are not aware of disease risks and symptoms are more likely to delay seeing a doctor until they are in pain or their symptoms interfere with daily tasks.
Women of some cultures may try traditional or "folk" remedies before seeking treatment from a western educated physician. Beliefs in healing and miracles, as well as distrust of the health care system may keep some people from getting routine preventive care.


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