Studies Address Presence Of More Lethal Breast Cancer Among Black Women

Armen Hareyan's picture

Black women are more likely to develop breast cancer tumors thatare more advanced and more aggressive than white women, and biology isthought to be a major factor behind the disparity, according to a studypublished in the journal Cancer, the Bloomberg/Bergen Record reports (Zimm, Bloomberg/Bergen Record, 7/10).

For the study, researchers Edith Mitchell and Gloria Morris from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Kimmel Cancer Centerexamined more than 2,200 medical records of cancer patients seen at thehospital between 1990 and 2002. According to the study, white womenwere more likely to have tumors that contained estrogen or progesteronereceptors -- known as HER2 -- and could be treated with availabledrugs, but black women's tumors were less likely to carry the treatableestrogen receptor. Tumors without such HER2 receptors are calledtriple-negative and can only be treated with chemotherapy.

Inaddition, the new study found that black women's tumors were morelikely to have two molecular markers of aggressive spread and growth.According to the Inquirer, the finding could lead researchers to develop new targets to attack the more-aggressive tumors (Flam, Philadelphia Inquirer,7/10). Morris said the reason behind the findings is "not necessarilyrelated to socioeconomic and demographic differences," adding, "Nowthere is a strongly emerging biological basis that African-Americansare more likely to have more-aggressive tumors" (Bloomberg/Bergen Record, 7/10). She suggested further research on triple-negative tumors and the development of drugs to treat them (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/10).


Diet-Cancer Link

In related news, two separate studies recently examined the linkbetween diet and cancer among minorities. Summaries of news coverage onthe studies appear below.

* Chinesewomen and breast cancer: Postmenopausal Chinese women who consume a"Western-style" diet have a greater risk of developing breast cancerthan those who consume traditional Chinese diets, according to a studypublished on Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Reuters reports. For the study, researcher Marilyn Tseng of the Fox Chase Cancer Centerand colleagues tracked about 3,000 women in Shanghai, about half ofwhom were diagnosed with breast cancer. They found that those whoconsumed a Western-style diet -- beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, candy,desserts and dairy products -- were 60% more likely to develop breastcancer than those who ate mostly vegetables and soy products, which istypical of a Chinese diet. In addition, postmenopausal women consuminga Western-style diet had a 90% increased risk of a type of breastcancer involving estrogen-receptor positive tumors. The study'sfindings suggest that the Western diet might increase Chinese women'srisk for breast cancer because of the added risk of obesity, Reuters reports (Dunham, Reuters, 7/10).

* Racialdisparities and diet: Diet might contribute to racial disparitiesbetween whites and blacks in terms of breast and prostate cancers,according to study published in the journal Ethnicity and Disease, Reuters Health reports. Minorities are more likely than whites to have less nutritious diets and to be overweight or obese, according to Reuters. For the study, researchers Hope Ferdowsian and Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine-- which promotes vegetarian diets -- examined previously conductedresearch on diet and cancer. In one study of 2,400 women who had beentreated for breast cancer, researchers found that those instructed tofollow a low-fat diet were about 25% less likely than others to have acancer recurrence. In another study, breast cancer survivors whoconsumed a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetablesexperienced a decline in estrogen, while women who maintained theirnormal eating habits experienced a rise in estrogen, which can fueltumor growth. According to the researchers, there is evidence thatblack women have relatively higher average levels of estrogen thanwhite women. The findings also might explain why black men are morelikely than white men to develop and die from prostate cancer, whichalso is driven by hormones, according to the study (Reuters Health, 7/9).

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