Embrace: Black Women Should be Screened Earlier

June 21, 2023

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“New study suggests Black women should be screened earlier for breast cancer”

Jacqueline Howard reported for CNN Health that a new research study suggests lowering the mammogram screening age for Black women. The recent push by the U.S Preventive Services Task Force comes after research studies reported racial disparities in breast cancer diagnoses. The National Cancer Institute (2020) identified in their research that Black women had higher mortality rates related to breast cancer. Further, NCI reported that risk levels vary depending on age and racial/ethnic background. Research has shown that Black women are three times more at-risk of developing triple negative breast cancers (Ingeno, 2021). Additionally, Howard for CNN Health reported that Black women are more likely to have denser breast tissue compared to their White counterparts. The identified racial disparities have led the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to reevaluate the mammography age requirements.

The Journal for JAMA Network Open reported that “clinical trials may be warranted to investigate whether screening guidelines should recommend Black women start screening at younger ages, around 42 instead of 50.” (Howard, 2023). The recent development comes after medical groups have asked for the age of mammograms to be lowered for preventative care. The American Cancer Society (2022) recommends that screening guidelines be shifted to further “help guide conversations that patients and their doctors have together.” In addition, there is a push for mammograms to be scheduled based on the needs of client’s opposed to a minimum required age. Further, healthcare professionals would be tasked to evaluate the risk factors associated with clients and make recommendations for mammography services based on the information. The American Cancer Society (2022) has highlighted that screening guidelines are not “one-size-fits-all” and more risk assessment tools should be accessed and utilized by healthcare professionals.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (2023) provided a list of professionals who are actively researching methods to mediate the racial disparities seen in breast cancer diagnoses. The following is a list of researchers:

Drs. Christine Ambrosone and Chi-Chen Hong are studying the types of immune cells found in and around breast tumors from both Black and white women to determine if they affect tumor aggressiveness.

Dr. Fergus Couch has identified inherited mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes that confer an increased risk of TNBC and may be important for screening in high-risk Black women. Recently, Couch and his collaborators examined gene mutations in a large, racially diverse population of American women. This study showed that mutations in the BARD1, RAD51C, and RAD51D genes, while very uncommon, appear more frequently in Black women with breast cancer and are associated with an increased risk of both TNBC and ER-negative breast cancer. Read more here.

In a cohort of 100 breast cancer patients with African ancestry, Dr. Melissa Davis is studying the relationships between social determinants of health, ancestry, the tumor microenvironment, and survival.

Dr. Laura Esserman is examining the immunological features of breast cancers in Black women to gain a better understanding of the spectrum of disease and the types of interventions that might improve outcomes.”

The Susan G. Komen organization has provided resources to support to individuals with increased risk of developing breast cancer. The resources include “when to get screened, what to expect at your mammogram appointment, what you should know if you need a follow-up test, tips for talking with your doctor about your breast cancer, and become an advocate in science,” (2023). Here for the Girls offers support and resources to all members and encourages members to reach out for questions or concerns.


American Cancer Society. (2022). Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html

Howard, J. (2023, April 20). New study suggests black women should be screened earlier for breast cancer. CNN Health. https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/19/health/breast-cancer-screening-age-race-study/index.html

Ingeno, L. (2021, September 20). Black women face three-fold increased risk of triple negative breast cancers. Penn Medicine News. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2021/september/black-women-face-three-fold-increased-risk-of-triple-negative-breast-cancers

National Cancer Institute. (2020). U.S. Mortality Data, 1969-2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://seer.cancer.gov/mortality/

Susan G. Komen. (2023). Know your history, know your risk. https://www.komen.org/about-komen/our-impact/breast-cancer/health-equities-initiative/know-your-history/



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