Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are breast tumors more common in African Americans?"
I am a 39 year old African American woman. Is it more likely I will get breast tumors than other ladies. Would like to know if I should examine myself more frequently.
Breast cancer is a significant health concern for many women--current estimates suggest that as many as one in eight women in the United States may develop breast cancer in their lifetime. With your specific question you bring up a very important issue. In looking at statistical trends in the United States, it does seem that women of African descent do seem to have worse outcomes than women of European descent. There are two main reasons that we think may be behind this trend. First, many African-American women in the US are not able to receive appropriate health screening or follow-up because of socioeconomic reasons. This is a huge public health problem that we as a society need to change by ensuring equal access to care. However, there is also evidence that women of African heritage are more likely to develop specific, very aggressive types of breast cancer than women of other genetic backgrounds. In your case, this doesn't necessarily mean that you are more likely to get breast cancer than other women, but it does mean that if you do get breast cancer, you may be more likely to get a type that is more difficult to treat. The bottom line is that it is to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor and get breast cancer screenings--i.e. mammograms and breast exams with your physician--as recommended. Checking more frequently is not likely to give you any added benefit....but making sure that you are checked every year is very important.