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Am J Surg. 2002 Nov;184(5):418-23.

Impacting cultural attitudes in African-American women to decrease breast cancer mortality.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, P.O. Box 208062, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



Over the past decade breast cancer mortality has decreased 1% or 2% per year in white women, but not in African-American women. The resulting "mortality gap" is a serious national problem, and it must be a high priority to understand the reasons for it and develop solutions.


The literature is reviewed to elucidate reasons for the mortality gap and the current status of possible solutions to the problem. In addition, new results of large population-based surveys in North Carolina are presented that may shed light on the problem.


The most important reason for the mortality gap is that African-American women tend to be diagnosed with more advanced stage breast cancer than white women. This is due both to lower utilization of screening mammography and to delayed presentation for women with palpable lumps. This is related both to socioeconomic factors that influence access to medical care and to cultural factors that tend to discourage women from seeking care early for breast problems.


Understanding the cultural beliefs that influence patient behavior will greatly aid physicians in caring for their African-American patients, and ultimately may help reduce the racial gap in breast cancer mortality.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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