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Genes May Link Breast Cancer in Africa, America

Study finds similar disease pattern in black patients from both continents

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

MONDAY, March 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Data on breast cancer in African women may provide important insights into the nature of the disease in black American women, researchers contend.

"Parallels between African-American and Sub-Saharan African breast cancer patients suggests the possible effects of hereditary factors," said experts at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Reporting in the April 15 issue of Cancer, the Michigan team analyzed data from previous studies of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.

They identified similarities between the clinical presentation and progression of breast cancer in Africans and black Americans, suggesting that certain genetic factors may play an important role in breast cancer differences between black and white Americans.

African women are most often diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 35 and 45, more than 15 years earlier than women in North America and Europe. Black American women are also more likely to get breast cancer at an earlier age than white women, the researchers note.

Genetic influences going back generations "may cause the younger age distribution that is seen among these patient populations to persist," the Michigan team speculated.

The breast cancer death rate among women in sub-Saharan African women is also disproportionately high compared to the incident rate, and the same is true for black Americans. At the time of diagnosis, the breast cancer tumors in both Africans and black Americans also tend to be at a more advanced stage, the researchers note.

The article also noted that Africa faces potential increases in breast cancer rates as more women there take on certain Western dietary and reproductive behaviors known to increase breast cancer risk.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about how race and ethnicity affect breast cancer outcome.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, March 14, 2005


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