As Black History Month draws to a close, it once again brings to mind our concern for improving diversity in breast cancer research.

When I say diversity in research, I don’t just mean in the subjects of research but also in the people doing the research. Sadly,  African American researchers are less likely to receive NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding than Caucasians. While several factors are thought to be involved, Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the NIH, has launched a push to change this and we support his efforts.

The second part of the equation is to make sure that research participants represent the diversity of the country. While some research transcends race and ethnicity; e.g., the molecular biology of triple negative (HER2/neu negative, estrogen receptor negative and progesterone receptor negative) breast cancer appears to be the same across populations, there may be other issues at play that are causing a disparity in numbers of occurrences. For example, a study looking at types of breast cancer found that 28 percent of breast cancer diagnoses in African American women were triple negative compared with only 12 percent of Caucasian women. Specific research is needed to understand why there is a higher instance of this aggressive type of breast cancer in blacks.

Through our Army of Women and the [HOW] Study, we are striving to increase the numbers of African American, Hispanic and all other combinations and permutations of ethnic groups who are participating in vital research. It is only by representing all of us that we will have research that will apply to all of us.  In addition to our [HOW] Study, the following studies addressing specific groups are still looking for participants.

Breast Density Patterns in African immigrant and African-American women

The purpose of this study is to examine the patterns of breast density (the non-fatty portion of breast tissue) among African immigrant and African-American women living in the United States, and to find out factors that affect the amount of breast density in women. The researchers needs 300 women from anywhere in the U.S.  for this study.

Sister Survivor: Improving the Survivorship Care of African-American Women with Breast Cancer

African-American breast cancer survivors living in Southern California, who are nearing completion of treatment or completed surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation treatment between 1-12 months ago, are invited to participate in a breast cancer research study focused on follow-up care. The researcher needs approximately 100 more women from the Los Angeles area to respond to this study.

Genomics and Breast Cancer in Hispanic Women

Genes in Hispanic women with breast cancer and Hispanic women who have never had cancer are being studied to learn more about risk in Hispanic women.  The researcher needs to enroll 1000 women for this study in the greater Los Angeles area. 

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2 Responses to Final Words for Black History Month: More Representation in Research

  1. Jan Marie says:

    As an African American woman & lformerly a chemist, I’ve often wondered if our high incidence of triple negative cancer is related to our uniquely heavy chemical exposure: e.g. long- term use of hair relaxers (sometimes beginning at age 3) plus widespread use of imported human hair extensions chemically treated in an unregulated industry abroad, often glued directly onto our scalps. Add artificial nails, cigarette smoking (or secondhand smoke), prescription (& other drugs), a diet of processed /fast food to all the other risk factors… I see black women bearing a heavy chemical load.

  2. Interesting comment Jan Marie. I know that it has been shown that hairdressers have a higher risk of some forms of cancer (including breast) because of their exposure to the various chemicals used. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/6/1512.long

    I am not aware of any research connected to nail art, but I do remember walking past a nail salon that directly opened onto an enclosed shopping mall and the smell of the chemicals used was almost overpowering.

    Younger women of all races (here in the UK at least) use far more chemical beauty products than before and frequently dye their hair and have their nails done, not to mention the fashions for an artificial tan, or skin lightening.

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