Breast Cancer

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided to our readers regarding these diseases is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  We strongly encourage our readers to use this information only as a preliminary resource, and we disclaim any liability for the decisions made by anyone based on this information. 

Statement About “Women”: RSP brings an expansive definition to the word “women.” Thus, our definition includes transgender women, cisgender women, gender queer, and gender non-conforming people.

The National Cancer Institute reports that among women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer after nonmelanomaskin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer. In 2012, an estimated 229,060 new cases will be diagnosed, and 39,920 deaths from breast cancer will occur.

Black women and breast cancer

  • Black women have the highest breast cancer death rates of all racial and ethnic groups and are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women (CDC).

  • African American women are twice as likely as White women to develop “triple negative” breast cancer—a subtype of the disease

  • Triple negative breast cancer is a type of aggressive breast cancer that primarily affects young African American women

  • Triple negative breast cancer tests negative for estrogen receptors (ER),progesterone receptors (PR), and the HER-2 gene.

  • Women with triple negative breast cancer don’t benefit from the most common treatments, such as tamoxifen or Herceptin, which are designed to affect cancers driven by estrogen, progesterone, or the protein called human epiderm.

The CDC states that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. Breast cancer deaths are decreasing fastest among white women. Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer than other women.  More black women have breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast compared with white women when the cancer is found. Black women have higher numbers of advanced stage breast cancer (45 percent) compared with white women (35 percent). Fewer black women start treatment in a timely way compared with white women. Also, fewer black women get the surgery, radiation, and hormone treatments they need compared with white women.

During a recent interview, Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, CDC Director explains that, “Although we are making progress reducing deaths from breast cancer, we have much work to do to reduce preventable deaths, particularly among African-American women.” He went on to say, “Only when every woman receives adequate screening, timely follow-up, and high-quality treatment, will the full benefit of breast cancer screening be achieved.”

Factors Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Hormone Therapy

Based on solid evidence, combination hormone therapy (HT; estrogen-progestin) is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The evidence concerning the association between estrogen-only therapy and breast cancer incidence is mixed (National Cancer Institute).

  • Obesity — Based on solid evidence, obesity is associated with an increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women who have not used HT. It is uncertain whether reducing weight would decrease the risk of breast cancer.

  • Alcohol — Based on solid evidence, exposure to alcohol is associated with an increased breast cancer risk in a dose-dependent fashion. It is uncertain whether decreasing alcohol exposure would decrease the risk of breast cancer

  • Major inheritance susceptibility — Based on solid evidence, women who inherit gene mutations associated with breast cancer have an increased risk.

  • Other risk factors for breast cancer include: age, family history, reproductive and menstrual history. We also believe that medical, socioeconomic inequities and other social determinants of health can be contributing factor towards the development of breast cancer.


You can help lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways—

  • Get screened for breast cancer regularly

  • Control your weight and exercise

  • Know your family history of breast cancer

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Breast-feeding — based on solid evidence, women who breast-feed have a decreased risk of breast cancer


Different types of treatment are available for patients with breast cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

For more comprehensive information for breast cancer treatment, please go to: National Cancer Institute