African Americans And Cancer

2:47 PM, Jul 10, 2009   |    comments
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(CBS)-- Sharesse Majette was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

"I had days when I was very depressed, and I think it was hard because I really wanted the baby," says Sharesse.

The 29-year-old's cancer was so aggressive, she had to terminate her pregnancy to undergo chemo, surgery and radiation.

Dr. Hershman with New York Presbyterian Columbia Hospital says there may be more reasons that previously expected for why cancer rates in the African American community are higher.

Dr. Hershman explains that for the first time, research shows that it's not because of lifestyle or inferior care why higher cancer rates exist among minorities.

"There may be biologic differences between the cancers among these groups that are contributing to it," says Hershman.

The study of almost 20,000 patients found death rates were much higher for blacks with hormone based cancers.

Higher Hormone Based Cancer Rates:

Breast Cancer  45%

Ovarian Cancer  61%

Prostate Cancer  21%

The study also found that in non-hormone based cancers, like lung, colon and lymphoma that minorities had the same survival rate.

Dr. Hershman says, "It makes us wonder what the role is between the hormones and race and outcome. Being able to individualize cancer treatments for everybody will ultimately improve outcomes for everybody."

Minority cancer rates are predicted to rise by 99 percent over the next 20 years.

Sharesse is still in radiation. Doctors agree, the best treatment is early detection.

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