Dr. Newman on Health Disparities in Breast Cancer

Lisa Newman, MD, MPH, FACS, FASCO

Lisa Newman, MD, MPH, FACS, FASCO, chief of Breast Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian, discusses health disparities among women with breast cancer.

Much of the research regarding health disparities has been done in African-American and Caucasian patients as that is where the biggest differential is, says Newman. Specifically, in breast cancer, higher disease-specific mortality is seen in African Americans than in Caucasians. Additionally, a higher proportion of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in younger women in the African-American community than in the Caucasian community, she adds. More concerningly is the higher degree to which biologically aggressive cancers manifest in African Americans than in Caucasians. Triple-negative breast cancers are twice as common among African-American women than in Caucasian women.

There are several reasons for these disparities, explains Newman. For example, socioeconomic disadvantages among the African-American community, which hinder their ability to access adequate healthcare coverage. This in turn can delay the time to diagnosis, which may explain why these patients present with more advanced-stage disease. The patterns regarding younger age and more aggressive disease among these patients are more likely related to tumor biology and genetics, says Newman.
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