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New developments emerge in breast cancer awareness


Black women suffer most from aggressive forms

Breast cancer is a term that is laden with fear for most women. Several concerns and mental alarm bells are rung for the fear of contracting it, fear of treating it, and fear of dying from it. For Black women in particular, it has been statistically shown that breast cancer can lead to death. Black women have higher incidences, contract more aggressive forms which drive higher mortality rates. 

Research from the Breast Cancer Preventions Partners (BCPP) shows that Black women have a 31% mortality rate, the highest of any other racial or ethnic group, among women under 45. Lastly, statistics show that Black women below 50 had twice the death rate as White women that age.

However, there are differing data points in regards to the Black mortality rate. 

According to a recent article on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation website, Black women have a 40 % higher death rate than White women with regards to breast cancer. The many socio-economic issues that beset Black women and access to healthcare contribute to these disparities. Black women are more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, are less likely to breastfeed after childbirth and are at risk for losing their lives and babies due to healthcare inequalities. Additionally, they are less likely than white women to have adequate health insurance, access to healthcare facilities, follow-up care and therapeutic resources. 

Although the reality of breast cancer can be challenging, Suzette Simon has an interesting response to her current battle with cancer-- humor. Simon is a comedian who finds positivity in a  dim cancer diagnosis. She and two other breast cancer survivors took part in the 4th season of a podcast called WORLD’s “Stories from the Stage: The Podcast.” The stories were part of a partnership between WORLD and Count Me In, a non-profit initiative that is attempting to advance patient-partnered cancer research. 

Simon explained, “I was diagnosed in 2020, with Stage 1V, Stage 2 ER Positive for 2 Breast Cancer. My mom died trying to hold onto dignity and so what I try to do is give people another angle to look at this thing called breast cancer and look at the journey. It doesn’t have to be so dark, I mean it can be a meaningful experience– you can pull out of it what you want and it would be a disservice to my mom if I didn’t try to change the narrative.” 

There are several products and practices that contribute to potential Breast cancer, which can be due in part to skin lighteners, hair relaxers, Brazilian blowout treatments and acrylic nails. 

Skin lighteners have hydroquinone and mercury which is associated with health problems such as nervous system issues, reproductive, immune and respiratory toxicity issues. Mercury is spreadable and use of the chemical can negatively impact surrounding family members and babies. Hair relaxers (both lye and non-lye) are associated with chemical scalp burns, scarring, dry skin, baldness, eye irritation and dry broken hair and are made with a base of sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, or ammonium thioglycolate which are high pH chemicals.

Lastly nail technicians report suffering from cancers, miscarriages, birth defects,headaches and dizziness. According to BCPP, 22.5% percent of Black women pick a fragrance based on smell, and a commonly used ingredient by the name of diethyl phthalate (i.e. DEP) is linked to breast cancer, developmental issues, decreased fertility, obesity and asthma. Some tips for women of color include avoiding toxic hair products, provide your own neutralizing shampoo to the salon of your choice, avoid nail polishes that use dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene, reduce use of products with additional fragrance, and carefully examine labels.