Breast Cancer In African American Women Linked To Diabetes

Black Women (painting)

A new study shows that African American women with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of aggressive breast cancer. The study found that estrogen receptor negative (ER-) was at significant risk when linked with type 2 diabetes.

The study ruled out obesity as an explanation, showing a clear link between the two diseases. Doctors are now having to reassess how risks are calculated for breast cancer in African American women.

The Boston University study involved 54,337 women over an 18 year period.

The study came as others have shown that risks for ER-, one of the toughest cancers to treat, has been on the upswing among African American women in North America. Because ER- resists hormone-based treatments, which make up the bulk of chemotherapy options for breast cancer, it is associated with higher mortality rates. Which are also recorded as being true of breast cancers in African American women already.

"While we observed no association for the most common type of breast cancer, the type that is responsive to estrogens, women with diabetes were estimated to be at increased risk of developing estrogen receptor negative breast cancer, a more aggressive type of breast cancer which is twice as common in U.S. black women as in white women," explained corresponding author Julie Palmer, ScD, associate director of Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, and associate director for population sciences at the BU-BMC Cancer Center.

Plausible explanations, Palmer continues, include the chronic inflammation associated with diabetes.



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