According to results recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, inadequate screening mammography may explain differences in outcomes among varied racial groups in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Outcomes among women with breast cancer, including mortality rates, have varied widely and persistently between racial and ethnic groups. Researchers have been evaluating possible reasons for these differences; however, direct relationships leading to mortality differences among different races have been difficult to determine.

Overall, African-American women and Hispanic women have a significantly higher rate of cancer that is detected at an advanced stage and, more importantly, have a significantly worse mortality from breast cancer than White women.

Researchers recently analyzed data from seven mammography registries including over one million women who had participated in the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. These data reveal that differences in screening mammography appear to be significantly associated with racial differences among women diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • White women had higher compliance rates of adequate screening mammography than African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and American-Indian women.
  • African-American women were more likely to be diagnosed with large, more advanced, and more aggressive cancers than other racial groups.
  • Among women who had similar mammography screening, there were no differences in the likelihood of being diagnosed with larger or more advanced cancers, nor were there differences in mortality outcomes between varied racial groups.
  • African-American women were still more likely to have more aggressive cancers than other racial groups, despite screening mammography schedules.

The researchers concluded that it appears that maintaining adequate screening mammography schedules may completely eliminate the differences in outcomes among women of different races and ethnicities who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

All women 40 years or older and those with a family history of breast cancer should speak with their physician regarding screening mammography schedules.

Reference: Smith-Bindman R, Miglioretti D, Lurie N, et al. Does Utilization of Screening Mammography Explain Racial and Ethnic Differences in Breast Cancer? Annals of Internal Medicine. 2006; 144:541-553.

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