Black Women and Breast Cancer: Why Disparities Persist and How to End Them

More progress needs to be made to improve outcomes for Black women with breast cancer. Here’s how BCRF investigators are addressing the challenge.

In the United States, breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer after non-melanoma skin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death. In 2023, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 300,590 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 55,720 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ/stage 0 breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States. While there has been an overall 43 percent decline in breast cancer deaths over the last three decades—thanks to gains in awareness, earlier diagnoses, and more effective treatments—there is a persistent mortality gap between Black women and white women.

Data compiled by ACS highlight the need to continue working toward closing this devastating gap. While breast cancer incidence rates among Black and white women are close, mortality rates are markedly different, with Black women having a 40 percent higher death rate from breast cancer. Among women under 50, the disparity is even greater: While young women have a higher incidence of aggressive cancers, young Black women have double the mortality rate of young white women. Advances in early detection and treatment have dramatically reduced breast cancer’s ability to take lives overall, but it’s clear that these breakthroughs haven’t benefitted all groups equally—and this disparity has remained unchanged for more than a decade.

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