African American-Breast Cancer Mortality

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Lisa A. Newman, “Breast Cancer in African- American Women,” The Oncologist 10 (2005): 1-14, doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.10-1-1

Breast cancer is more prevalent in Caucasian women, but more African American women die from the disease. The high mortality in African American women may be due to the lack of access to health care or not going to the doctor regularly. During my personal experiences, I have learned that some African Americans avoid going to the doctor because they do not have health insurance. Therefore, African American women may not obtain regular physical exams causing them to be diagnosed with breast cancer at stage four. In stage four, the cancer spread to different organs of the body causing treatment to be ineffective and decreasing longevity. Health disparities is the reason why I want to become a physician because if physicians educate their patients about diseases and treatment options thoroughly; they can give the patients hope.

According to an oncologist, genetics plays a more significant role in the risk of obtaining breast cancer in Caucasian women than in African American women. In addition, 30-40% of African American women and 20% of Caucasian women are breast cancer patients under the age of 50. Overall, there is no significant data that describe why African American women have a higher mortality rate; therefore more research should be conducted.

On the other hand, I believe lifestyle is the main determinant of health. The “Race and Medicine” lecture described how a genetic mutation in Pima Indians cause efficient processing of sugars and storage of fats, even when storage is unnecessary. The mutation could potentially cause Pima Indians to become obese and develop type II diabetes, which indicates the importance of genetics/race in health. However, when a study compared Mexican Pima Indians with American Pima Indians, American Pima Indians were 5.5 times more likely to develop type II diabetes than the Mexican Pima Indians, which reveals the significance of lifestyle.

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