The Problem

Gulf States Home to More Young Breast Cancer Survivors Than Rest of Nation

One in eight (8) women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. How do you know how likely you are to be that one? It may help to consider the different categories of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, 2009-2013

Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi share several traits relating to breast cancer incidence and mortality among women less than 45 years old. These relate to incidence, biological tumor markers, and mortality.

In 2010-2014, young white women in each of these states experienced lower breast cancer incidence than their counterparts throughout the United States, significantly lower in Alabama and Mississippi. In contrast, black women in each state were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than in the country as a whole, but this difference is not statistically significant. Statistically significant means that the likelihood that the relationship between two or more variables is caused by something other than random chance.

The reasons for this disease pattern are not clear. But we do know that the Gulf States have higher-than-average rates of young breast cancer survivors, making the need for support even more important.

Table 1. Average annual incidence rates per 100,000 (case counts), breast cancer among women aged < 45, 2010-2014
White Women Black Women
Alabama 24.7 (219) 31.7 (120)
Louisiana 25.7 (196) 31.1 (125)
Mississippi 23.9 (109) 32.3 (104)
U.S. (SEER) 26.9 28.8
State rate is significantly lower or higher than the U.S. rate (p <= 0.05). Counts are not provided for the U.S., as the SEER sample covers only about one fourth of the population. All U.S. incidence rates are based on data compiled by the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Table 1 shows the average annual incidence rates and number of new cases for each state.

One factor that indicates worse prognosis for breast cancer patients is the combination of negative estrogen receptors, negative progesterone receptors, and negative HER-2 receptors. For these women, the common chemotherapies now available will not halt the spread of their disease. Throughout the United States, black women are more likely to be “triple negative” than are white women. In the 0-44 age-group, approximately 23% of black women with breast cancer are triple negative, versus about 15% of white women. This pattern is true in each of the three Southern states. Table 2 summarizes the counts and percentages of women diagnosed with this characteristic each year in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Table 2. Average annual incidence counts (percentages) for triple-negative breast cancer among women aged < 45, 2010-2014
White Women Black Women
Alabama 34 (15.7%) 25 (20.7%)
Louisiana 30 (15.5%) 33 (26.8%)
Mississippi 21 (18.9%) 29 (27.6%)
U.S. (SEER) (15.2%) (23.0%)

Mortality rates for black women are higher in each of the three states than in the United States as a whole, although this difference does not reach statistical significance. Mortality among white women is the same as—or lower than--the U.S. rate. These death figures roughly reflect the incidence rates: Higher among blacks in the South and lower among whites in the South than nationwide. Table 3 shows the average annual mortality rates and counts.

Table 3. Average annual mortality rates per 100,000 (death counts), breast cancer among women aged < 45, 2010-2014
White Women Black Women
Alabama 2.5 (22) 5.5 (21)
Louisiana 2.1 (16) 5.7 (23)
Mississippi 2.5 (11) 5.6 (17)
U.S. (SEER) 2.5 (1,613) 4.9 (608)

Mississippi's Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network

Young women with breast cancer face unique issues. And in the South, there are more young women overall facing breast cancer. In Mississippi, young African-American women are significantly more likely to suffer from breast cancer.

That is why SurvivMISS is here. Part of the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network, SurviveMISS's mission is to help improve the quality of life for young breast cancer survivors, as well as their family and friends, by providing continuing resources and support.

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