Can your risk of getting cancer be greater based on the color of your skin? A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says yes. The investigation done at Mass General Hospital Cancer Center has identified genomic differences between the tumors of white women and African American women. In addition, the researchers have discovered that the African Americans are more likely to develop aggressive tumors and tumors that reoccur.

The statistics aren’t pretty. Forty percent of African American women are more likely to die from their cancer. Some of this may be due to a distinction in socioeconomics: their ability to receive preventative care, access to health services, and insurance. Yet this doesn’t explain the differences in tumor genotype and why black women specifically have the type of aggressive tumors that reoccur. The study of their genetics is a first step in understanding why their cancer is so much more prevalent.

Attending physician Aditya Bardia, at Mass General Hospital Senior emphasized the significance of this breakthrough. “Our study adds important pieces to the puzzle of why African American women with breast cancer are less likely to survive.” MGH believes that if their findings are confirmed by other studies, this might open doors for new therapies targeted to help African American women with breast cancer.

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