Black Women with High Risk are Less Likely to have Breasts or Ovaries Removed to Lower Risk of Cancer

At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago researchers reported that Black women who learn they have a high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer are less likely than white or Hispanic women to have their healthy breasts or ovaries removed in order to lower their risks of developing those cancers.BRCA_Genes.svg

Women who carry the BRCA mutations have been estimated to have a large increase in lifetime risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer (about 90% for breast cancer and 60% for ovarian cancer). The carriers’ responses on what action to take varied, especially among different ethnic groups. A study by Dr. Tuya Pal and her colleagues at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa found that 83% of Latinas chose to have their ovaries removed, compared to 71% of white women, and only 32% of black women who had the surgery. This fits with a study published last year that found after a cancer diagnosis in one breast in total 26% of diagnosed women 45 years old or younger chose to have the other healthy breast removed. When the percentage was broken down racially it came out to: 30% of white women, 18% of Latinas, 16% of black women, and 15% of Asian women chose to have this surgery.

While these surgeries are very personal choices it is thought that there are cultural influences on this decision. These influences may include if a community views a mastectomy as disfiguring, how supportive families are of women who choose to have healthy breasts or ovaries removed, and if a woman can afford breast reconstruction. Another determining factor could be insurance coverage, which commonly has racial gaps.