Breast cancer and Hispanic women

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 10th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among both Hispanic and white women. But new research reveals the disease can actually behave differently in Hispanic women, resulting in diagnoses of more aggressive and larger tumors.

Previous breast cancer studies found that social and economic factors play a large role in disparities in outcome between women of different ethnicities, with higher death rates for black and Hispanic women than for white women. Several other studies have demonstrated that a woman’s biology or genetic makeup may contribute to how the disease develops. Now new research, published in the journal Cancer finds that biological or genetic factors may also be partially to blame for the differences in breast cancer between Hispanic and white women.

The study included nearly one-hundred-forty Hispanic and more than twenty-one hundred non-Hispanic breast cancer patients enrolled in the same health insurance plan. On average, Hispanic women were diagnosed five years younger than white women, and were nearly three times more likely to have the most advanced form of the disease. In addition, tumors among the Hispanic group were larger and less likely to have cellular characteristics that would respond to therapeutic drugs.

Even after researchers adjusted for the women’s socioeconomic status, Hispanic women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

Nevertheless, all women share one thing in common when it comes to breast cancer risk: Major cancer organizations say a healthy lifestyle helps everyone, and emphasize the importance of regular screening for early detection.