~ By Tara Pringle Jefferson
Each year, 19,000 new cases of breast cancer occur among African American women. That’s 19,000 too many.
According to the American Cancer Society, our five-year survival rate of breast cancer is 77%, compared to white women’s rate of 90%. African American women are more likely to develop breast cancer at a younger age, and we tend to develop more aggressive tumors, which are harder and more expensive to treat.
Enter Dr. Kathleen Arcaro from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She studies breast cancer by studying breastmilk, which is full of breast cells key in figuring out how breast cancer develops. Over the past ten years she’s worked to improve our understanding of breast cancer risk, and her findings may lead to new screening, prevention and treatment strategies.
The problem? Black women are underrepresented in the research. As a result, findings that work for white women or women with less aggressive forms of breast cancer, don’t work for the majority of black women grappling with the disease.
To ensure her findings are applicable to women of all races, she has been working to recruit African American women for the Love/Avon Army of Women, a project aiming to recruit one million women to sign up to participate in breast cancer research (if they choose to do so). By signing up, participants will receive an email newsletter with breast cancer research opportunities. Some research is as simple as a questionnaire or a phone interview.
Having African American women well represented in the breast cancer research is key, for her research and many others.’ So Dr. Arcaro hopes black women will sign up for the Army of Women (and be sure to select “breast milk study” in the drop down menu to help track the impact).
You can learn more about Dr. Arcaro’s work, and see if you or other women you know might qualify for one of her studies, at the website of the UMass Breastmilk Lab, and follow the lab on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.