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Aggressive breast cancer hits black women harder

Researchers in the US have found a genetic link between people with African ancestry and the aggressive type of breast cancer. They hope their findings will encourage more black people to get involved in clinical trials in a bid to improve survival rates for people with the disease.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is more common in women under 40 and disproportionately affects black women.

A study published in the journal JAMA Oncology found that black women diagnosed with TNBC are 28% more likely to die from it than white women with the same diagnosis.

Now a new study has confirmed a definitive genetic link between African ancestry and TNBC. Lisa Newman, of Weill Cornell Medicine, has been part of an international project studying breast cancer in women in different regions of Africa for 20 years.

She says representation of women with diverse backgrounds on clinical trials is absolutely critical.

"Unfortunately, African-American women are disproportionately under-represented in cancer clinical trials and we see this in the breast cancer clinical trials as well," says Dr Newman.

"If you don't have diverse representation, you don't understand how to apply these advances in treatment.

"Part of it is because there is some historic mistrust of the healthcare system.

"We do continue to see systemic racism in the healthcare delivery system where it has been documented, tragically, that many cancer care providers are less likely to offer clinical trials to their black patients compared with their white patients."


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