Disparities in Genetic Testing and Care among Black women with Hereditary Breast Cancer

Curr Breast Cancer Rep. 2020 Sep;12(3):125-131. doi: 10.1007/s12609-020-00364-1. Epub 2020 May 19.


Purpose of review: Despite a steady improvement in breast cancer survival rates over the past several decades, mortality disparities remain among Black women, who have a 42% higher death rate compared to non-Hispanic white (NHW) women. Hereditary breast cancer (HBC) accounts for 5-10% of all breast cancer cases, the majority of which are due to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA) genes. Despite the availability of BRCA testing for over 25 years, there remain disproportionately lower rates of genetic testing among Blacks compared to NHW due to a multitude of factors. The intent of this review is to discuss racial disparities focused on HBC across diverse populations and review the existing gaps to be addressed when delivering gene-based care.

Recent findings: The factors contributing to the racial survival disparity are undoubtedly complex and likely an interplay between tumor biology, genomics, patterns of care and socioeconomic factors. Advances in genomic technologies that now allow for full characterization of germline DNA sequencing are integral in defining the complex and multifactorial cause of breast cancer and may help to explain the existing racial survival disparities.

Summary: Identification of inherited cancer risk may lead to cancer prevention, early cancer detection, treatment guidance, and ultimately has great potential to improve outcomes. Consequently, advances in HBC diagnosis and treatment without widespread implementation have the potential to further widen the existing breast cancer mortality gap between Black and NHW women.

Keywords: BRCA; Breast cancer disparities; Genetic counseling; Genetic testing; Hereditary breast cancer; Racial disparities.