An academic and cancer surgeon at the University of Oxford aims to shed light on the variation in breast cancer in different ethnic minority groups.

Dr Toral Gathani, a senior clinical research fellow, is investigating why women from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to get breast cancer, but why it is more likely to be a more aggressive form of the disease when they do.

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, but analysis of national data has shown women from black Caribbean and black-African backgrounds are significantly more likely to have more advanced disease at diagnosis than white British women.

Additionally, this analysis which studied women aged 30-70 in England, using national data, has shown that those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds had significantly greater odds of less favourable tumour characteristics compared to white women, and that these differences are more marked in black compared to Asian groups.

Dr Gathani’s three-year project will use existing data from large national studies and the National Cancer Registry Service in England to look at breast cancer incidence rates and how breast cancer risk factors such as weight, alcohol intake and reproductive factors, may differ in different ethnic groups.

Cancer Research UK have funded the project with £101,000 for the first year with future funding planned for a further two years.

The results aim to help clinicians better understand breast cancer for women with an ethnic minority background.

Dr Gathani said: “This is an important research project with direct public health relevance. If we can establish the barriers people face in accessing healthcare and describe the pattern of risk factors in certain groups, we can work to improve cancer outcomes.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK Chief Executive, said: “Cancer inequalities – unfair, avoidable and systemic differences between population groups – are present at every stage of the cancer experience, including the prevalence of cancer risk factors, screening uptake and barriers to seeking help.

“Women from ethnic minority backgrounds may be less likely to take up invitations for breast screening and women from black Caribbean and black African backgrounds are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage.

“This study will allow us to further understand some of the reasons behind these differences and help us find new ways to remove barriers and improve breast cancer outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities in the UK.”

Dr Gathani’s research team will also review and summarise all the data from previous studies and reports to provide the most up to date information to identify why ethnic minority women may find it harder to access healthcare services or to attend breast screening appointments.


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

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