Black African women almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with late stage breast cancer compared to white women

Cancer Research UK

Black African women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with late stage breast cancer as white women in England according to new analysis* from Cancer Research UK and Public Health England released.

While there are still gaps, this information provides a useful insight into which ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with late stage cancer - Dr Jodie Moffat

Twenty five per cent of Black African women and 22 per cent of Black Caribbean women diagnosed with breast cancer are picked up at stage three and four.

This compares to thirteen per cent of white British women.

This is the first time data on more specific ethnic groups and their stage at diagnosis from across England has been routinely released, helping to build a clearer picture of who is diagnosed at an early or late stage.

Ethnicity and stage at diagnosis was collected for women diagnosed with breast cancer in England in 2012 and 2013**.

Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK’s head of early diagnosis, said: “Information about the stage when cancers are diagnosed in the UK has greatly improved in recent years, and it’s vital the data continues to be collected and analysed. While there are still gaps, this information provides a useful insight into which ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with late stage cancer. It’s difficult to know exactly what would be behind any differences, but there are likely to be a range of reasons, including possible differences in tumour biology, awareness of symptoms, barriers to seeking help, attitudes to cancer and breast screening attendance.  

Dr Jem Rashbass, PHE Cancer Lead, said: “This analysis will help improve awareness and target treatments. It also shows how vital it is that we collect data is on every person with cancer England, as findings like these are only possible due to the world leading cancer data we have in this country.

"It is hugely important to catch all cancers, but particularly breast cancer, early. Lumps are not the only sign and women should tell their GP if they notice any changes to their breasts such as nipple discharge or changes to the skin of the breast. Breast screening is offered to women aged 50-70 and can help detect cancer earlier and improve survival.”

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “Reducing late stage diagnosis of cancer is a key part of our work to achieve better results for patients, and we want to be sure that any activity is reaching those most in need. Because of the data gaps, we’ll need further work to know how accurate the picture is that these results paint. But we are clear that finding cancer at an earlier stage can make a real difference as it means treatment is more likely to be successful. If you notice something that isn’t normal for you, or you’ve a symptom that’s not gone away or has got worse, getting it checked out promptly could save your life.”

ENDS

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References

http://www.ncin.org.uk/view?rid=3285 or contact the press office to receive a PDF of the data report.

Notes to Editor

** Ethnicity and stage at diagnosis was also analysed for lung, bowel and prostate cancer.

Among bowel cancer patients, Black Caribbean’s had one of the highest proportions of late stage diagnosis (54 per cent). One of the lowest proportions was in White British (48 per cent).

For lung cancer patients, Pakistanis had one of the highest proportions of late stage diagnoses - 75 per cent. Some of the lowest proportions were in Indians with 61 per cent diagnosed at a late stage.

White British men were more likely to be diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer (33 per cent), compared to Black Caribbean men – 29 per cent.

  • There are between 7 (bowel cancer) and 21 (prostate cancer) per cent of cases with an unknown stage at diagnosis across cancer types and ethnicity. This incompleteness in stage at diagnosis data could have an impact on the associations reported above.
  • There are also differences between the number of cases diagnosed across the different ethnic groups included in the analysis, with a particularly small number of cases included for some of the more minor ethnic groups. This means that there is more statistical uncertainty around the results for these smaller ethnic groups (the estimates for the proportion of cases diagnosed early or late have wide confidence intervals).