Regular mammo screenings can close racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes

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 - Mammogram

Racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes can be improved through regular mammography screening, according to a retrospective study published in the August issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Black women are more likely to reach advanced stages of breast cancer than white women, with tumors that have a higher likelihood of being larger and more biologically aggressive. Previous studies have shown that black women in Chicago and certain other cities are more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer compared with white women.

However, the current study, conducted by Paula M. Grabler, MD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues found that 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 presentation in later stages of disease.

“This study reinforces the fact that racial gaps in breast cancer outcomes can be improved,” Grabler said in a release. “One solution within reach is simple access to routine and regular mammography screening.”

Findings were based on data from a retrospective study of women diagnosed with breast cancer at Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, both located in Chicago, from January 2001 to December 2006. A total of 1,642 subjects were included, 980 of whom were regularly screened and 662 were not.

Results showed that within the regularly screened group, the proportion of early breast cancers was 74 percent and 69 percent for black women and white women, respectively, a difference that is not statistically significant. Likewise, there were no significant racial differences between white and black women within the irregularly screened group.

There were differences between black women who were regularly screened and those who were not. Subjects in the regularly screened group were less likely than those in the irregularly screened group to have estrogen negative cancers (26 vs. 36 percent), progesterone negative breast cancers (35 vs. 46 percent), and poorly differentiated breast cancers (39 vs. 53 percent). White women in the irregularly screened group also had worse prognostic factors than white women in the regularly screened group, but the authors noted the differences here were not statistically significant.

“This suggests that poor prognostic biological factors such as receptor status and tumor grade, once thought to be innate and immutable, may be significantly ameliorated by regular mammography screening, especially in black women,” the study’s senior author David A. Ansell, MD, MPH, a primary care physician at Rush University, said in a statement. “This is a unique finding that will require further exploration.”