US breast cancer death rate continues to fall, but disparities still exist

Breast cancer deaths have declined over the past three decades; however, a racial gap persists in the U.S., according to the most recent statistics from the American Cancer Society.

The U.S. death rate from breast cancer dropped by 43 percent between 1989 and 2020, with 460,000 fewer deaths. The cancer society attributes the decline to general awareness, early screening detection, and treatment advancements. 

Researchers note that the pace of decline has slowed. Death rates dropped about 1.9 percent annually from 2002 to 2011 and dropped 1.3 annually from 2011 to 2020. 

Despite the decline in overall deaths, a racial disparity continues to exist. According to an Oct. 4 report from U.S. News & World Report, Black women have a 40 percent higher death rate, despite experiencing cancer at slightly lower rates with 127.8 cancer cases per 100,000 versus white women with 133.7 cases. Furthermore, for every 19.7 white women per 100,000 who die of breast cancer, 27.6 per 100,000 Black women will die. According to the report, the death rate among women younger than 50 is twice as high for Black patients. 

"We found that despite continued progress in reducing the risk of death from breast cancer, there is an alarming persistent gap for Black women, who have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from breast cancer than White women despite lower incidence. This is not new, and it is not explained by more aggressive cancer," said the senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, Rebecca Siegel. 

Gaps also exist for American Indian and Alaska Native women, who are 17 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, but 4 percent more likely to die from the disease.

View the American Cancer Society 2022 cancer statistics here.

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