Black women younger than 35 years old get breast cancer at two times the rate of White women. Healthcare providers and researchers do not have a definitive answer as to why breast cancer disproportionately affects Black women, but inferior screening and structural racism are contributing factors.

While overall mortality rates have improved by more than 30% in the past 50 years, Black women are still 40% more likely to die from the disease than White women and nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. 

The reality is that healthcare providers and researchers do not have a definitive answer as to why breast cancer disproportionately affects Black women, but gaps in the U.S. healthcare system, like lack of health insurance and bias in health care, mean that timely access to health care is elusive for Black women. In fact, Black women are more likely to detect breast cancer through self-examination, at which point it has progressed to a noticeable lump (a sign of more advanced disease). 

In an effort to educate ourselves and learn from Black people who have experienced breast cancer firsthand, the latest destination in Verywell's Health Divide series provides:

  • Educational information with insights into how breast cancer affects Black women
  • Stories from people who have firsthand experience with breast cancer
  • Helpful resources that provide guidance specifically targeted at Black women

--Shamard Charles, MD, MPH, public health doctor

Health Divide

Breast Cancer and Black Women

Black Health Spotlight: Breast Cancer

Effect of Breast Cancer on Black Women

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  1. National Cancer Institute. Reproductive history and cancer risk. Updated 2016.

  2. Richardson LC. Patterns and trends in age-specific black-white differences in breast cancer incidence and mortality – united states, 1999–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6540a1