A recent study finds that African ancestry is linked to a more aggressive type of cancer that is more deadly.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor found that, among women with breast cancer, 82 percent of African women had the breast cancer called “triple negative,” 26 percent of African-Americans had the variety, and 16 percent of white Americans had it.
Triple negative breast cancer is negative for three markers used to determine treatment: the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and HER-2/neu. Recent advances in breast cancer treatments target each of the receptors, but targeting all three is a major problem, said Dr. Lisa A. Newman, director of the Breast Care Center at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Outcome disparities are therefore likely to increase, because fewer African-American women are candidates for these newer treatments,” she said.
These results and results from prior studies indicate a genetic link for the form of breast cancer a woman might develop.
Prior studies have shown that while African-American women are less likely than white women to develop breast cancer, those who are diagnosed are usually younger and more likely to die from the disease. Other studies have shown a hereditary breast cancer risk associated with racial-ethnic identity — most commonly among Ashkenazi Jewish women.
Researchers looked at African-American women and white women diagnosed with breast cancer at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Researchers also looked at African women diagnosed at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana.
Ghanaian women were diagnosed at a younger age than American women, with larger tumors, had more advanced cancer and were more likely to have the triple negative test results.
Researchers said the recent findings may help science find women predisposed to more aggressive and deadly cancers.