• Is There Such A Thing As A Black Woman's Breast Cancer

    by Sharan Abdul-Rahman, MD
    on Oct 26th, 2016

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

On July 6, 2016, a study was launched to investigate how genetic and biological factors contribute to the breast cancer risk among black women. The African American Breast Cancer Consortium, the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk (AMBER) Consortium and the NCI Cohort Consortium will share bio-specimens, data and resources from 18 previous studies. The resulting study population will be 20,000 black women with breast cancer.

Why? Black women are more likely to die from their breast cancer and black women are more likely to be diagnosed with the aggressive sub-type (triple negative) breast cancer. Compared to white women, triple negative breast cancer is twice as common in black women.

Can the disparity be explained by genetics? And more importantly, how does race and genetics overlap? Dorothy Roberts at the Univ of PA has argued that race is a social identity and is not reflective of one's genetic makeup. In medicine, race has been used as an indication of one's genetic makeup. It continues to used as such.

This should change as we become more adept at understanding and interpreting the human genome.

The genomes of 20,000 black women with breast cancer will be compared to the genomes 20,000 black women without breast cancer. The genomes of 20,000 black women with breast cancer will be compared to the genomes of white women with breast cancer. The study will look for inherited genetic mutations that are associated with breast cancer in black women compared to white women.

This is a fascinating work with the potential for major breakthroughs for our understanding an treatment of breast cancer.The $12 million dollar grant for this study was awarded to Wei Zheny MD PhD of Vanderbilt University, Nashville Tennessee; Christopher Haiman ScD University of Southern California Los Angeles and Julie Palmer ScD Boston University. Breast Cancer Genetic Study in African Ancestry Populations, Grant Number R01CA202981

Author Sharan Abdul-Rahman, MD

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