Cancer and Women of African Ancestry

Did you know?

  • Women of African heritage are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer and will probably die from it before the age of 40?

  • African American women are diagnosed with a more aggressive type of cancer than others?

  • Researchers have found that there is a genetic mutation linked to this aggressive type of breast tumor but more research is needed to find out WHY it is related to this specific group?

  • The American Cancer Society reported that black women have a higher breast cancer mortality rate at every age, and a lower survival rate than white women? The five-year survival rate for white women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer is 90% while the five-year survival rate for black women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer is only 76%.

  • The Journal of American Medical Association found that the higher frequency of basal-like tumors found primarily in African American women, as well as lack of access to proper care and treatment, are the main reasons for the poor survival rate observed among young African American women with breast cancer?



Gynecologic cancer is a group of cancers affecting the tissues and organs of the female reproductive system.  They include but are not limited to:



The cervix is the narrow part of the womb connecting the uterus to the vagina.  Precancerous changes to the cervix are called cervical dysplasia.  Most women with dysplasia do not develop cancer.

Cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women and African-American women are 50% more likely to develop this cancer over white women.  Most cases of cervical cancer are found in women age 50 and younger.



The ovaries are two small oval-shaped organs that lie on either side of the uterus close to the end of the fallopian tubes.  There are 3 main types of ovarian cancer: epithelial cell, germ cell and stromal.

Ovarian cancer develops mainly in women age 60 and older.  It’s the 9th most common cancer found among women.  It is the most lethal cancer of the reproductive system.  If detected and treated in its most early stage, five-year survival rate is 93%.



The uterus (or womb) is the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby/fetus grows.  This cancer affects the cells in the uterus lining, called the endometrium.

Uterine Cancer is twice as common in African-American women than in white or Asian women.  Survival rates are highly correlated to the stage of the cancer, the type and grape of the sarcoma and the patient’s general health.

Source:  The American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures report for 2009-2010.

Breast Cancer


The American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures report for 2009-2010 offers the following statistics:


An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in 2009.

The 5-year survival rate among women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 is 83% compared to women ages 40 and older at a rate of 90%.  African-American women have a lower 5-year survival rate of 78% after diagnosis.  Lower survival rates may be as a result of more aggressive cancer types being diagnosed and less responsiveness to treatment.

From 2002-2006 in the US, the overall incidence rate of breast cancer is highest among white women followed by African American (.5% less), American Indian (26% less), Hispanic/Latina (27% less), and Asian American women (34% les), respectively. African-American women had the highest mortality rates (up to 20%) among racial/ethnic groups.