Breast-cancer survival rates for black women remain somewhere in the neighborhood of three years lower than those of white women, and there have been several theories as to why this is. According to the New York Times, a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reveals that a lack of adequate health care and pre-emptive screenings could be among the main causes.

The findings, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that while a significant number of black women still get inferior cancer care, the larger problem appears to be that black women get less health care over all, and that screening and early detection campaigns may have failed to reach black communities.

Such a conclusion debunks the belief that breast cancer exists differently within black women than it does white women. 

The difference is not explained by more aggressive cancers among black women. Instead, the researchers found a troubling pattern in which black women were less likely to receive a diagnosis when their cancer was at an early stage and most curable. In addition, a significant number of black women also receive lower-quality cancer care after diagnosis, although those differences do not explain the survival gap.

"Something is going wrong," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Silber, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Center for Outcomes Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which studies disparities in health care. "These are huge differences. We are getting there too late. That's why we are seeing these differences in survival."

The data show that black patients are twice as likely to never receive treatment. The records of 12.6 percent of black patients did not show evidence of treatment, compared with 5.9 percent of whites.

Black patients were also more likely to have at least a three-month delay in receiving treatment. Among black and white women with similar tumors, 5.8 percent of black women had not started treatment after three months, compared with just 2.5 percent of whites.


Read more at the New York Times.

Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.