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Published On: Wed, Nov 4th, 2015

Rise of breast cancer among black women prompts Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee letter

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (both D-CA) today sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell following the release of a study by the American Cancer Society that highlighted the rise of breast cancer among black women.

Sen. Boxer's concerns about the Hagel nomination include equality for LGBT in the military and reproductive health care.  Image/US Senate

Sen. Barbara Boxer Image/US Senate

“We are sure you are aware of the troubling study released last week by the American Cancer Society regarding rising rates of breast cancer among black women,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We write to ask how the Department of Health and Human Services plans to take action based on this disturbing news.”

The research shows that the rise in breast cancer among non-Hispanic black women goes beyond improved detection. The study’s authors cited several possible reasons for the increase, including a surge in obesity rates, diets lacking healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables and shorter durations of breastfeeding.

Although the overall breast cancer incidence rate is slightly lower in black women than in white women, the breast cancer death rate for black women is 42 percent higher.

“Given these alarming facts, how do the public health and research institutes at the Department of Health and Human Services plan to identify the reasons for this increase, discover why the mortality rates are so high in this community and ultimately, reverse this devastating trend?” Boxer and Lee wrote.

The full text of the letter follows:

November 3, 2015

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Burwell:

We are sure you are aware of the troubling study released last week by the American Cancer Society regarding rising rates of breast cancer among black women. We write to ask how the Department of Health and Human Services plans to take action based on this disturbing news.

The research shows that the rise in breast cancer among non-Hispanic black women goes beyond improved detection. The researchers note several possible reasons for the increase including a surge in obesity rates, diets lacking healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables and shorter durations of breastfeeding.

However, compounding the alarming trend is the data that non-Hispanic black women are being diagnosed with more deadly versions of the disease. The researchers wrote, “Although the overall breast cancer incidence rate is slightly lower in black women than in white women, the breast cancer death rate is 42 percent higher in blacks than in whites.” This is partially due to black women being disproportionately diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers, which currently lack targeted therapies for treatment.

Given these alarming facts, how do the public health and research institutes at the Department of Health and Human Services plan to identify the reasons for this increase, discover why the mortality rates are so high in this community and ultimately, reverse this devastating trend?

Thank you for your commitment to improving our nation’s health and to eliminating health disparities so that all Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, have equal access to the highest quality care.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Barbara Lee
United States Representative

 

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