The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made big news last week when they announced new guidelines for breast cancer screening, which suggest mammograms every two years for women ages 50-74; the old guidelines suggested that women over 40 get a mammogram every year. Reactions from women, especially from breast cancer organizations and survivors, were generally not good, with one survivor saying that the new guidelines felt like a slap in the face.
Ashton Lattimore explains another reason why these new guidelines are problematic: they disproportionately affect African-American women, which could lead to devastating effects. She writes that African-American women “have the highest breast cancer death rate of any race, are at increased risk for developing the diseases at younger ages, and are disproportionately prone to an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer” known as triple negative, which progresses beyond stage one more quickly than other forms, and is also more resistant to traditional treatment. African-American women are also are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages of cancer and less likely to receive the necessary follow-up care. Additionally, “the U.S. Department of Health reports that Black women ages 35 to 44 have a breast cancer death rate more than twice that of white women in the same age group.”
These statistics show a definite bias towards the needs of white women in the study, which puts many African-American women, who actually need earlier and more frequent mammograms, in significant danger of not getting the care they need.