Corporate Press Releases

Breast Cancer Rates Questioned in Latina Population

Breast Cancer May Be on the Rise in U.S.-based Latinas; $1 Million from Avon Foundation Launches Research Initiative Across Two U.S. States and Mexico

May 9, 2006

Breast cancer is an understudied and poorly understood disease in Hispanic/Latina populations in the U.S., and breast cancer appears to be presenting at an earlier age in this population, on average 10 years younger when compared to Caucasian women. The findings were presented today by researchers from the Arizona Cancer Center and the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center at the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Symposium in Torrance, CA.

"We need to understand the magnitude and profile of breast cancer in our Latina population in the U.S.," according to Elena Martinez, Ph.D., of the Arizona Cancer Center. "If we do not make the effort to understand breast cancer as this population ages and adopts lifestyles common to the U.S., we could be looking at a major public health problem and higher burden of disease."

To support this effort, the Avon Foundation announced a $1 million grant to enable researchers in the U.S. and Mexico to undertake an international research initiative to assess the specific types of breast cancer occurring in Latinas in both countries. The money will fund studies conducted in coordination among the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and the Universities of Sonora and Guadalajara in Mexico.

"In keeping with our mission to support the medically underserved, the Avon Foundation is proud to support four major institutions across two countries to help find the solution to the issue of breast cancer in Latina women," said Avon Foundation Executive Director Carol Kurzig.

Preliminary data also suggests a higher rate of breast cancer may exist for those Latinas born in the U.S. than in those born in Mexico. However, researchers are quick to point out the only way to verify these numbers is to conduct a large-scale research initiative in both the U.S. and in Mexico.

"We do not know why we are seeing breast cancer at an earlier age for this population. It is unclear if the adoption of behaviors common in the U.S. is driving these numbers up for U.S.-born Latinas or, more worrisome, if Latinas suffer a higher sensitivity to certain risk factors common in the U.S.," said Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "The Avon Foundation grant allows us to address these and other important questions about the type of disease and treatments among U.S. and Mexican Latinas in a larger, well- characterized population."

Jorge Gomez, MD, PhD, Chief of the Organs System Branch at the National Cancer Institute, confirmed that the current U.S. data on Latina breast cancer may not as accurate as we have thought, and that this research allows the U.S. to avoid a potential future health crisis with regard to breast cancer.

"We simply do not currently have accurate data on Latinas and breast cancer in this country, but we do know a problem exists," said Gomez, "Finally, thanks to a private funding initiative, researchers in both countries are enabled to do their jobs, and to save future lives."

Through this major research initiative, the Avon Foundation grant aims to capture a true estimate of breast cancer patterns in Latina women, including age at diagnosis; subtype of the disease; and the influence of known risk factors on rate of diagnosis by comparing an enriched population in Mexico with Mexican Americans residing in the United States. The program will collect clinical data, treatment data, preliminary outcome data and will characterize tumors by genetic analysis.

About the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum

The announcement was made at the annual Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum, this year focused on "Challenges and Solutions in Screening and Treating the Underserved," which brought together over 200 specialists in breast cancer care programs to share best practices and learn the latest scientific advances that will impact the populations they serve.

The 2006 event focused on the delivery of the newest breast cancer screening and treatment options to the under- and un-insured, minorities and other medically underserved populations. The announcement about breast cancer and Latina women came on the second day of a three-day agenda focused on topics ranging from young women and breast cancer to outreach initiatives to various ethnic populations. The Forum will conclude on Wednesday, May 10th with sessions on emerging new treatments for breast cancer and funding strategies for supporting breast cancer outreach programs in local communities.

The Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Forum thanks Presenting Sponsor GE Healthcare and Silver Sponsor Novartis Oncology for their generous support.

Funding for the Forum was also provided in part from the Avon Walks for Breast Cancer, a series of eight weekend-long events produced by the Avon Foundation to fund access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. Avon Walks offer participants a choice of completing a marathon walk (26.2 miles) or a marathon and a half (39.3 miles) over a weekend, and in their first three years have raised more than $100 million. The 2006 Avon Walk cities include: Washington, DC, April 29-30; Boston, MA, May 20-21; Chicago, IL, June 3-4; Denver, CO, June 24-25; San Francisco, CA, July 8-9; Los Angeles, CA, September 16-17; New York, NY, October 7-8; Charlotte, NC, October 21-22.

About the Avon Foundation

The Avon Foundation, an accredited 501(c)(3) public charity, was founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women and their families. The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade launched in 1992, and Avon has supported breast cancer programs in some 50 countries. While advances have been made, breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, and in the U.S. there is a new diagnosis every three minutes. Through 2005 the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade raised and awarded more than $400,000,000 worldwide for access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer, with a focus on the medically underserved. Funding supports five areas: awareness and education; screening and diagnosis; access to treatment; support services; and scientific research. Beneficiaries range from leading cancer centers to community-based non-profit breast health programs, creating a powerful international network of research, medical, social service and community-based organizations focused on defeating breast cancer and ensuring access to care. For more information, visit

  Allyson Laughlin               Susan Arnot Heaney
  Laughlin Strategy Group        Avon Foundation
  310-779-9855                   212-282-5668

SOURCE: Avon Foundation

CONTACT: Allyson Laughlin of Laughlin Strategy Group, +1-310-779-9855,; or Susan Arnot Heaney of Avon Foundation,

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