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Health Status of African American Women

Breast Cancer
Except for African Americans 20-24 years old, African American women are more likely than White women to get breast cancer before age 40. However, they are less likely than White women to get breast cancer after age 40.

African American women are more likely than White women to die from breast cancer.

In 2001, African American women were 20 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, they were 30 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Other Cancers
New cases of certain cancers occur more often in African American women, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer.

The death rate from colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer is higher among African American women than other racial groups.

In 2001, African American women were 2.6 times as likely to have been diagnosed with stomach cancer, and they were 2.3 times as likely to die from stomach cancer, compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Overall, African American women are more likely to die from cancer than persons of any other racial and ethnic group. There is not enough information to figure out why African Americans bear this cancer burden. Some reasons may be poor access to health care, poverty, tumors found at a later (more advanced) stage, different belief systems, fear of talking about cancer, and lack of trust of the medical system.

Cardiovascular Disease
In the United States in 2002, all cardiovascular diseases combined claimed the lives of 493,623 females while all forms of cancer combined to kill 268,503 females. Breast cancer claimed the lives of 41,514 females; lung cancer claimed 67,542.

Heart disease is the leading killer across most racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States, accounting for 28.5 percent of all deaths in 2002.

African Americans are 29 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites. This occurs despite the fact that 9.6 percent of African Americans have heart disease vs. 12.2 percent of whites. Some 26.7 percent of African Americans have hypertension compared to 20.1 percent of whites.

The age-adjusted heart disease death rate for African American women is 263.2 per 100,000 compared to the age-adjusted heart disease death rate of 193.7 per 100,000 for White women.

In 2002, CVD, including stroke, caused the deaths of 56,721 black females.

African American and Mexican American women have higher CVD risk factors than white women of comparable socioeconomic status.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20.8 million Americans—7 percent of the U.S. population—have diabetes, up from 18.2 million in 2003. Nearly a third of these Americans are undiagnosed.

3.2 million, or 13.3 percent of all non-Hispanic blacks aged 20 years or older have diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences, non-Hispanic blacks are 1.8 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.

Although African Americans make up only 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they accounted for 50 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in 2003.

African American females had more than 25 times the AIDS rate of non-Hispanic white females.

African American women were more than 22 times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS as non-Hispanic white women.

In 2002, African Americans aged 65 and older were 30 percent less likely to have received the influenza (flu) shot in the past 12 months, compared to non-Hispanic whites of the same age group.

In 2002, African American adults aged 65 and older were 40 percent less likely to have ever received the pneumonia shot, compared to non-Hispanic white adults of the same age group.

Although African American children aged 19 to 35 months had comparable rates of immunization for hepatitis, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella ( MMR ) , and polio, they were slightly less likely to be fully immunized, when compared to non-Hispanic white children.

Infant Deaths
In the United States, prematurity/low birthweight is the second leading cause of all infant deaths (during the first year of life).

During 2000-2002 (average) in the United States, preterm birth rates were highest for black infants (17.6 percent), followed by Native Americans American Indians (12.9 percent), Hispanics (11.4 percent), whites (10.7 percent) and Asians (10.2 percent).

In 2002, African Americans had 2.4 times the infant mortality rate of non-Hispanic whites.

African American infants were over 4 times as likely to die from causes related to low birthweight, compared to non-Hispanic white infants.

African Americans had twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.

African American mothers were 2.8 times as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.

Lupus (also called systemic lupus erythematosus) is a disorder of the immune system. Normally, the immune system protects the body against invading infections and cancers. In lupus, the immune system is over-active and produces increased amounts of abnormal antibodies that attack the body's tissues and organs. Lupus can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system, and blood vessels. The signs and symptoms of lupus differ from person to person; the disease can range from mild to life threatening.

Lupus is more common in African American women and other minorities than in White women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 1979 and 1998, 70 percent more African American women (between 45 and 65 years old) died from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Obesity and Overweight
Obesity is measured with a Body Mass Index—BMI—which shows the relationship of weight to height. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while women with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.

Among Americans ages 20 and older, 134.8 million are overweight or obese—68.6 million are men and 66.2 million are women. Of these, 63.1 million are obese—27.5 million are men and 35.6 million are women.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea (breathing problems while sleeping), osteoarthritis and some cancers. Fifty percent of adult African American women are obese.

African American women were 1.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to be obese.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS remains the leading cause of death in the United States among infants between one month and one year of age and the third leading cause of death overall among infants less than one year of age, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2002 in the United States, 2,295 infants under one year of age died from SIDS.

African American and American Indian infants are two to three times more likely to die from SIDS as other infants.

Content Last Modified: 11/23/2005 1:20:00 PM
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