The American Cancer Society announced a 40 percent drop in breast cancer deaths—but racial disparities are still a major problem.

By Faith Brar
Updated: October 04, 2017

Hearts broke across the country when Julia Louis-Dreyfus revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On social media, the Veep star said that one woman in eight will get breast cancer. While that number might seem high, new research from the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that breast cancer death rates actually declined by nearly 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, saving 322,600 lives as a result. (Related: New Breast Cancer "Vaccine" Announced)

Early cancer screenings, as well as advances in technology, have contributed to this amazing news. But there's still one major problem: Since black women are more likely to develop aggressive forms of breast cancer and have less access to preventative care, they're still far more likely to die from breast cancer than white women are.

In fact, the ACS was quick to note that even though the rate of breast cancer diagnosis was slightly lower in black women between 2010 and 2014, the death rate was 42 percent higher in African-American women over the same time period.

Researchers also found that women over the age of 50 were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but race played a role in that as well. While the average age for breast cancer deaths in the United States is 68, black patients died much younger, at 62.

So would expanding health-care coverage significantly reduce the breast cancer death disparity experienced by black women? Looking at states individually hints that this may be the case. (Related: How a Planned Parenthood Collapse Could Impact Women's Health)

According to ACS, mortality rates for both black and white women were the same in seven states in 2015 (data from later years has yet to be analyzed), proving that the racial gap can indeed be closed. While it's tough to draw any major conclusions from such a small pool, research shows that states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware were able to reduce or eliminate racial disparity with more widespread health-care coverage for ethnic minorities. (Related: This Viral Photo of Lemons Is Helping Women Detect Breast Cancer)

After charting the number of deaths and diagnoses over the last two years, ACS was also able to project the number of new breast cancer cases in 2017. Right now, more than 250,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer this year, which will result in more than 40,000 deaths.

We can only hope that continued development for prevention, treatment, and technology means fewer women-of every race-will be affected by this disease.

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