African American Women & Breast Cancer

Note: This information is from an excellent article by one of my favorite organizations Breast Cancer Action, which I profiled in October 2008 and will be commenting on periodically. The original article was written by Brenda Salgado. These are just highlights and quotes. Since this is National African American Black Month, I thought this would be an appropriate posting. I am also including positive pictures from the Internet of older African American women. I especially love the one of a “senior” on a motorcyle!

“African American women are much more likely to die from breast cancer than white women….(and) are much more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and at a later stage, and have more aggressive forms of the disease.”

Author Brenda Slagado’s opening paragraphs, from which this was taken, really shocked me, since I was not aware of this fact. While these “disparities,” as they are called, may simply be attributed to genetics or personal factors, BCA has challenged the conventional approach to addressing what they consider inequities by addressing the root causes in both our social and physical environments.

David Williams of the Harvard School of Public Health spoke at a symposium on 2007 and noted that we need to take a broader approach to understand breast cancer inequities. We must not ignore other factors such as social and economic conditions that actually may have a much bigger impact on the inequities.

On page 8 of the article is a list of facts that illustrate his points. For example, in 2001, African Americans had higher death rates than whites for all 15 leading causes of death in the U.S., including cancer. These facts are also eye-opening.

What the article brings to light is that African American women may not be receiving the same health care as white women, an equity that I find upsetting. At the end of the article are four articles used as resources for the author and also a box with information to TAKE ACTION by going to to watch clips from a PBS series on the exploration of racial and social inequalities in health.

While this article was written more than one year ago, I just checked the website above and it still exists as a seven part PBS series. To contact Breast Cancer Action (BCA) or to make a donation, call 415-243-9301 or go to their website:, or email BCA at

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