The American Cancer Society released a report Thursday with bleak news on the state of black women’s health.
For the first time ever, black women are getting breast cancer at the same rate as their white counterparts, the report says. The incidence of breast cancer in black women increased 0.4 percent between 2008 and 2012.
It used to be that black women were more likely to die from breast cancer than white women at every age and that white women led black women in diagnoses. Now, black women die from the cancer at a rate higher than white women and are also getting the disease at the same rate. The disparity between white and black women in breast cancer death rates has actually increased. Death rates were 42% higher in black women than white women in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society, a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate cancer. The authors of the report say that trend is expected to continue.
“It is a crisis,” Marc Hurlbert, chief mission officer for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, told The New York Times.
Black women are diagnosed at later stages and are less likely to survive at every stage of breast cancer than other racial and ethnic groups, the Cancer Society says. Diagnoses and deaths occur at younger ages in black women than white women, according to The New York Times.
Rising obesity rates among African-American women and changes in black women’s reproductive patterns play a role in the changing rates of breast cancer, according to the Times. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive subtype linked to poorer survival.
While black women are facing this crisis, their access to health care is being threatened. Planned Parenthood provided 935,573 cancer screenings in 2013, yet Republicans have tried to block funding to the organization over its abortion services. In September the House voted to block funding to the organization. The same thing happened in 2011. Black women are overrepresented among Planned Parenthood clients.
“To me the bottom line of these statistics is the evidence that the health disparity between African-American and white women in the U.S. is still going strong,” said Kirsten Moysich, a professor of oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, to The New York Times.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.