Black Women Twice As Likely to Suffer Late Stage Breast Cancer Diagnosis As White Women

Cancer cells
Detail of breast cancer cells. Cancer Research U.K. and Public Health England have established a data collection program for all breast cancers diagnosed in England. American Cancer Society/Getty

Black women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer as white women in England, according to Cancer Research U.K. and Public Health England.

Approximately 25 percent of black African women and 22 percent of black Caribbean women diagnosed with breast cancer are picked up at stage three and four, compared to 13 percent of white British women.

Experts said there are a range of possible reasons for the outcome, from differences in tumor biology to contrasting attitudes surrounding breast screening.

In a first-time data collection of its kind, ethnicity and “stage at diagnosis” was collected for women diagnosed with breast cancer in England in 2012 and 2013.

Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research U.K.’s head of early diagnosis, said: “Information about the stage when cancers are diagnosed in the U.K. has greatly improved in recent years, and it’s vital the data continues to be collected and analysed.

“While there are still gaps, this information provides a useful insight into which ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer. It’s difficult to know exactly what would be behind any differences, but there are likely to be a range of reasons, including possible differences in tumor biology, awareness of symptoms, barriers to seeking help, attitudes to cancer and breast screening attendance.”

Among bowel cancer patients, black Caribbeans had one of the highest proportions of late-stage diagnosis at 54 percent. One of the lowest proportions was in white British patients, at 8 percent.

For lung cancer patients, Pakistanis had one of the highest proportions of late-stage diagnoses—75 percent. Some of the lowest proportions were in Indians with 61 percent diagnosed at a late stage.