Young, Black, and Prepared: Understanding Your Breast Cancer Risks

By Natalie Ferguson, DNP, MSN, FNP, MSA, APRN - August 23, 2023

A recent review published by the American Cancer Society stated that “Black Women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer before age 40 than White women.”

According to the article’s authors, “Too often breast cancer is a disease that impacts older women, but nearly 10% of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. are found in women younger than 45 years of age.”

If you are young and Black, the risks, incidence of diagnosis, and death rates are far greater than if you are young and White. Yet, as the authors’ emphasized, “Far too many young women of color don’t know their risk for this disease or how to lower it.”

There are certain risk factors which predispose young women to the risks of breast cancer. These include but are not limited to the following:

  1. History of breast or any other types of cancer
  2. Genetic mutations
  3. Physical inactivity
  4. Alcohol consumption.

However, researchers from the National Need Assessment of Young Women and Touch the Black Breast Cancer Experience also listed some rather disproportionate factors relating to young Black women.

  • Black women younger than 35 get breast cancer at 2 times the rate of White women and die at 3 times the rate.
  • About 30% of all newly diagnosed Black breast cancer patients are younger than 50 years old.
  • Black women are just as likely to have hereditary breast cancer mutations as White women, yet their participation in genetic counselling and testing is lower.
  • Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer, even though their incidence rates are similar to or lower than those of White women.

The first important step in addressing this disparity is educating yourself and knowing the facts regarding your breast health. It is also very important to understand your cancer risks and eradicate the false assumption that breast cancer only impacts older women.

The article’s authors also noted that there are other factors that play an important part in understanding your cancer risks, such as understanding the basics of what breast cancer is, what causes breast cancer, and the signs and symptoms to look out for. It is also important to know your family history, which begins with having family conversations about medical and cancer histories and creating your own family health history. This enables you to understand your own breast cancer risk factors. Genetic counselling, followed by genetic testing, if that is required, is also highly recommended. Finally, have a conversation with your physician, who will explain all the test results, the meaning of those results, and, more importantly, the ways your results affect your individual cancer risk.

Connecting with other women who are going through the same experience, receiving mental and emotional support, and seeking treatment resources are all ways you can stay connected and up to date on treatment developments and modalities.


Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021.

Black Breast Cancer: The Facts.