Breast Cancer Awareness month comes every year, and with it so does a litany of pink everything. From ribbons pinned on lapels to shirts expressing remorse for lost loved ones and celebrating strength found in survivors.
Marathons and fundraisers are all held to help promote awareness and raise funds for research to combat one of the United States’ deadliest forms of cancer among women.
Which is great, but there’s one caveat.
Representation of women of color is severely lacking in research studies.
Most research done for breast cancer including development for new drugs, questionnaires and studies are being conducted on Caucasian women.
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, a research organization with the goal of eradicating breast cancer, has noticed the disparity in numbers for women of color in not only their numbers but across the board for other research facilities.
Dr. Susan Love, MD, MBA, Chief Visionary Officer, has created the Army of Women, an email list that hopes to garner as many women from diverse backgrounds and ages who are willing to participate in research to help enhance and broaden breast cancer studies. She said:
“ We have 86 percent Caucasian, 3.5 percent African American, 3.3 percent Latina and 1.1 percent for Asian” for women who are currently in the Army for Women.
What makes the disparities in these numbers even more alarming is that other researchers come to organizations like Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation to help garner participants from diverse backgrounds.
It’s important to represent women of different backgrounds in research because each ethnicity is uniquely impacted by breast cancer.
For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, 11.1 percent of Black women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, which is the second most common cause of cancer death among Black women.
Although Caucasian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at a higher rate than Black women, the breast cancer that Black women typically get diagnosed with is a much more aggressive form of breast cancer.
This leads to a mortality of 3.3 percent or 1 in every 31 Black women diagnosed with breast cancer will eventually succumb to the disease. Whereas the mortality for Caucasian women is 2.7 percent or 1 in 37 women.
Furthermore, the incidence of breast cancer among other women of color, such as Latinas and Asian, women should not be dismissed.
While Latinas tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at lower rates than both White and Black women and tend to have a lower mortality rate than both of their predecessors, Latinas typically face more barriers to getting screened for breast cancer.
Moreover, Latinas typically get diagnosed with breast cancer at more advanced stages of cancer, making breast cancer still the most common cancer and a leading cause of death for these women, according to Susan G. Komen research.
Rates for breast cancer in Asian women have also been increasing. According to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, South Asians such as Pakistanis and Asian Indians and Southeast Asians (Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong, Thai) all have experienced an incidence increase. The largest increase occurred among Koreans, South Asians and Southeast Asians.
Additionally, the detection of breast cancer for Filipino, Korean and South Asian women is occurring at more advanced stages.
The Susan Love Research Foundation understands that the lack of diversity in participants for breast cancer research is a problem and they want to rectify it.
“We really have to make a concerted effort,” says Dr. Love. “I’m giving talks at a variety of different groups, to get a diverse population of women and men who are willing to be apart of the research…we have to make it easy for researchers, we have to say, ‘Ok, we have the diversity, come here, we have what you need.’ But the only way to do that is if we increase the numbers that we have in our army,” said Dr. Love.
Help make a difference by registering for the Army of Women eblast, which will keep you informed about research that’s currently happening with breast cancer. It will also inform you about research opportunities that you can sign up to be apart of or ignore. It’s totally at your discretion, even if you sign up for the Army of Women- you never have to participate in a study if you don’t want to.
However, if you want to make a difference in the diversity of breast cancer research, please sign up. Even if you’ve never had breast cancer before, your participation is still desired, because even if you don’t qualify for a study maybe you have a sister, a cousin or a friend who would be perfect for the study.
So sign up and help diversify breast cancer research today. Sign up at drsusanloveresearch.org/