Understanding and effectively addressing breast cancer in African American women: Unpacking the social context

Cancer. 2016 Jul 15;122(14):2138-49. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29935. Epub 2016 Feb 29.


Black women have a higher incidence of breast cancer before the age of 40 years, more severe disease at all ages, and an elevated mortality risk in comparison with white women. There is limited understanding of the contribution of social factors to these patterns. Elucidating the role of the social determinants of health in breast cancer disparities requires greater attention to how risk factors for breast cancer unfold over the lifecourse and to the complex ways in which socioeconomic status and racism shape exposure to psychosocial, physical, chemical, and other individual and community-level assaults that increase the risk of breast cancer. Research that takes seriously the social context in which black women live is also needed to maximize the opportunities to prevent breast cancer in this underserved group. Cancer 2016;122:2138-49. © 2016 American Cancer Society.

Keywords: African American women; breast cancer; race; socioeconomic status (SES); stress.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / history
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data