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Mammography Screenings for Breast Cancer Show Racial and Ethnic Disparities

By Nancy Chan, UCSF News Services | April 17, 2006

Inadequate use of screening mammography may be an important reason that African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer than members of other ethnic groups, according to a new study led by a University of California, San Francisco imaging specialist.

Results from the six-year study analyzing data from mammograms of 1 million women 40 years of age and over are reported in the April 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Through the 1990s, mortality rates from breast cancer in the United States decreased as the use of mammography increased. These decreases primarily benefited non-Hispanic white women, whereas the mortality rate for African-American women changed very little, according to the research team.

"We found significant differences in the patterns of mammography by race and ethnicity. All minority women were significantly more likely to be inadequately screened with mammography than white women," said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, lead investigator and UCSF associate professor in the departments of radiology, epidemiology and biostatistics, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. "It was important to determine whether the use of mammography was the reason for the racial and ethnic differences in breast cancer. There has been an ongoing debate whether biology, or use of screening mammography, is primarily the cause for the racial and ethnic differences in outcomes."

Read more at Nancy Chan, UCSF News Services