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African American Women's Perspectives on Breast Cancer: Implications for Communicating Risk of Basal-like Breast Cancer


African American women suffer a disproportionately high burden of basal-like breast cancer, an aggressive subtype that has no targeted therapy. While epidemiologic research has identified key prevention strategies, little is known about how best to communicate risk to this population. This study explored women's knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about breast cancer to learn about risk perceptions. Six focus groups were conducted in North Carolina with 57 women (ages 18-49). Age, race (especially perceptions of cancer as a "White disease"), and lack of family history of breast cancer were all shown to contribute to women's perceptions of low breast cancer susceptibility. Perceptions of low risk were also attributed to conflicting risk information from family, media, and health providers. Women had little to no knowledge of breast cancer subtypes, and emphasized that health communications should be personally relevant, culturally appropriate, and convenient. These findings will assist in developing health communication tools that encourage prevention.

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