Some good news to share this week: Deaths from breast cancer have plummeted over a 26-year period. A report released Tuesday by the American Cancer Society shows a 39% decline in breast cancer-related deaths between 1989 and 2015, reports the Washington Post. The report notes 322,600 deaths were prevented in that period thanks to better treatment—doctors describe improvements in chemotherapy, as well as the introduction of new drugs like tamoxifen and Herceptin—and early detection through mammograms. But this doesn't mean we're in the clear. Far from it: One in eight American women is still expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. In 2017, 252,710 are expected to receive that diagnosis; of those, 40,610 will die, the report suggests.
Black women—who had a 39% higher risk of death from breast cancer than white women in 2015—are especially at risk. Black women have a lower rate of the type of breast cancer that is treated with tamoxifen and "a higher rate of triple-negative cancer," lead author Carol DeSantis says, per a release. But a medical oncologist tells the Post that there are also social and economic factors in play that explain why black women in Louisiana, for instance, had a 66% higher rate of death from breast cancer compared to white women. In this way, the disparity "is not acceptable," he says. DeSantis notes in the release that "increasing access to health care to low-income populations can further progress the elimination of breast cancer disparities." (Read more breast cancer stories.)