Racial Disparities in Screening Mammography

December 16, 2016

Screening mammography is not utilized equally among racial groups.

The availability of screening mammography varies considerably among racial groups, particularly for women who are black or Hispanic, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, performed a systemic review and meta-analysis to assess racial disparities in screening mammography in the United States. After searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Scopus for comparative studies published between 1946 and 2015, the researchers found 39 relevant studies, from which they compared utilization of mammography among various racial groups.

The 39 studies 5,818,380 patients; 43.1% of patients were white, 33.3% were black, 17.4% were Hispanic, and 6.2% were Asian/Pacific Islander. When comparing the women who underwent screening mammography, black and Hispanic women had lower odds of undergoing screening than did white women. For African Americans, these disparities were present in both the 40 to 65 age group and the over 65 age group. These differences were only present in the 40 to 65 age group for Hispanic women. There was no difference in mammography screening between Asian/Pacific Islanders and whites.

“Not only do black and Hispanic women get screened less than white women, but disparities also persist in two age groups: women who are 40 to 65 years old and 65 and older,” study author Ahmed T. Ahmed, MB, BCh, a postdoctoral fellow researcher at the Evidence-Based Practice Center and Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine, both at the Mayo Clinic, said in a release. “These findings are important; it’s evident that more work needs to be done to ensure that all eligible women have access to this preventive screening tool.”

The researchers concluded that there remain racial disparities in utilization of screening mammography, evident in black and Hispanic populations in the United States. Further studies are needed to understand reasons for disparities, trends over time, and the effectiveness of interventions targeting these disparities.