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Black women get breast cancer earlier than white women

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Black women are diagnosed with breast cancer more than two decades earlier than white women, according to UK researchers.

They carried out the first study to look at patterns of breast cancer among black women in the UK. The team studied 102 black women and 191 white women diagnosed with breast cancer at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, East London, between 1994 and 2005.

They found that the black women were diagnosed with breast cancer at an average age of 46, while the white women were diagnosed about 21 years later, at the age of 67.

The researchers also found that the survival rate was poorer among black women, and that the tumours in the younger black patients were more likely to be aggressive and less responsive to newer breast cancer drugs like Herceptin.

Study author Rebecca Bowen, from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: ‘We think the differences in the way tumours of black and white women behave can be put down to the biological differences between the two ethnic groups.

‘We’re now trying to find out why the tumours are so different so that we can develop new treatments to target the aggressive forms of breast cancer seen in young black women.’

The study is due to be published in a forthcoming edition of the British Journal of Cancer.

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