(American Cancer Society, 2001). A recent literature review of clinical trials and retrospective studies in the United States that compared survival between white women and African American women with breast cancer found that socioeconomic status replaces race as a predictor of worse outcome in many studies (Cross et al., 2002). According to this review, relative to white women, African American women were more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and with more advanced disease that appeared to be more aggressive biologically.


Breast cancer represents a significant health burden to American women. In 2002 there were an estimated 203,500 diagnoses of invasive breast cancer and 39,600 deaths. There are over 2 million women alive with a history of breast cancer. Age is a key risk factor associated with breast cancer, with 45 percent of new cases and 59 percent of deaths occurring among women age 65 and older. Most women (63 percent) are diagnosed with localized breast cancer that has a very favorable prognosis. Their 5-year survival was 96 percent, although some of these same women will eventually develop or have already developed recurrences. Although African American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, when they are diagnosed, they are more likely to be diagnosed with regional or distant disease that has a less favorable prognosis. Other racial and ethnic groups (i.e., Asian and Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Hispanics) have both lower breast cancer incidence and mortality rates.


American Cancer Society. 2001. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2001–2002. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.

American Cancer Society. 2002. Cancer Facts & Figures 2002. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.

American Heart Association. 2001. 2002 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. Dallas: American Heart Association.

Avon Breast Cancer Foundation. 2002. Women’s Health Index 37.

Cross CK, Harris J, Recht A. 2002. Race, socioeconomic status, and breast carcinoma in the U.S: What have we learned from clinical studies. Cancer 95(9):1988–1999.

Ries LAG, Eisner MP, Kosary CL, Hankey BF, Miller BA, Clegg L, Edwards BK, eds. 2002. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1973–1999. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute.

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