LOS ANGELES –October signals National Breast Cancer Awareness month. While the disease is predominately found in women, it is now proven that breast cancer affects men too, so it is important that both sexes are aware of the signs and take preventative measures to reduce its risk. Simply put, breast cancer is caused by a malignant tumor in the breast. However, race is a factor in breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in 2011 in the United States, which roughly translates to one in eight women. Of that, 26,840 will affect African American women. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among black women. Premenopausal black women are at particular risk of basal like breast cancer, which decrease survival rates. In fact, racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes between black and white women have been attributed to advanced stage at diagnosis, negative hormone receptor status, higher tumor grade, reduced access to health care, and other socioeconomic factors.
For men, over 2,140 new cases were diagnosed in the US in 2011, of which 450 may not survive. Similar to African American women, African American men are at increased risk due to lack of early diagnosis and larger tumors. It was initially thought that men diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely not to survive, but recent studies show that men and women identified with having the disease have equal survival rates. While a significant health threat, breast cancer is on the decline, particularly for middle-aged women. One reason may be the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women over 50, which has been linked to breast cancer. The other is prevention.
“Early detection is key for increasing survival rates in breast cancer,” says Dr. Jay Vadgama, Professor and Director of the NCI/NIH funded Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. “We encourage women aged 35-40 to get a mammogram every two years. Women over age 50 should get a mammogram every year. If you have a family history, in particular mother, sibling or child with breast or other cancer, we recommend earlier screening. In addition, women should conduct a monthly self-exam monthly and everyone should get a clinical breast exam every three years after age twenty. “Our research has shown that the average age of African American and Hispanic/Latina women is much younger compared to White/Caucasian women. 52 years of age for African American women, and 48 for Hispanic/Latina women. On average White/Caucasian Women are diagnosed at age 60-62. We have also shown that obesity is a major risk factor for breast cancer in African American women compared to Hispanic/Latina women”, said Dr. Vadgama. “Hence exercise, healthy life style and normal body weight are important preventive factors.”
Normally, signs of breast cancer can include lumps in the breast, redness or scaling of the breast or a discharge from the nipple. The American Cancer Society lists several factors that can contribute to the incidence and risk of breast cancer. Some of these include:
· Gender – women are at greater risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer
· Age – the chance of breast cancer increases as a woman gets older
· Family history – breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.
· Personal history of breast cancer – a woman with cancer in one breast has a greater chance of getting a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.
· Race – White women are more likely to have breast cancer than other races, but African American women have a higher mortality rate from the disease, as they tend to be attacked by faster growing tumors.
· Dense breast tissue – women who have more gland tissue and less fatty tissue are more prone to the disease. Dense breast tissue can also make it harder for doctors to spot problems on mammograms.
To reduce the risk of breast cancer, the Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions:
· Limit alcohol consumption – the more you drink, the more you increase your risk of breast cancer.
· Control your weight – being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is particularly true if obesity occurs later in life—especially after menopause.
· Get plenty of exercise
· Breast feed – breast feeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
· Avoid using hormone replacement therapies (HRTs.)
Says Dr. David Carlisle, CDU President and CEO “At CDU our mission is to reduce health disparities among underserved populations. We encourage everyone to be aware of their overall health, maintain an active lifestyle with daily exercise; to conduct monthly self-examinations to reduce the risk of breast cancer and most importantly to get mammograms as recommended by their physician.”
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals. The only dually-designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S., CDU’s mission is to conduct education, research and clinical services in the context of community engagement to train health professionals who promote wellness, provide care with excellence and compassion, and transform the health of underserved communities For more information, visit http://www.cdrewu.edu/ .