The following article features coverage from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2018 meeting. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Women veterans may be at a higher risk of breast cancer due to unique service-related exposures, such as burn pits, depleted uranium, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, results from a recent pilot study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) suggested the alternative possibility of an innate or genetic risk, particularly among female African American veterans, who have been traditionally under-represented in breast cancer research.

The study included a total of 99 female veterans, average age 54, recruited at Veteran Affairs Medical Centers in Bronx, New York, and Washington, DC, between 2015 and 2018. The majority of participants were African American (60%), with 13% Hispanic, 14% non-Hispanic white, and 13% categorized as other. The study authors calculated 5-year and lifetime risks of developing invasive breast cancer using the Gail Breast Cancer Risk Assessment tool (BCRAT). 

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Among all patients, 35% were considered high risk with a 5-year BCRAT greater than 1.66%, 51% of whom were African American, 14% Hispanic, and 17% other. Overall, 22% of patients had prior breast biopsies and 57% had a family history of breast cancer. In comparison, among African American female veterans alone, 33% had prior breast biopsies, and 94% had a family history of breast cancer. Encompassing all the study participants, 29% had PTSD, 31% of whom had a high risk of breast cancer. 

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“To our knowledge, this is the only study with 60% African American women veterans. High participation rates among African Americans in this pilot study have uncovered the potential for further inquiry into this population,” wrote the authors. 


Park Y-HA, Keller AT, Bidassie B, et al.High participation of African-American women veterans in high risk breast cancer screening pilot program. Poster presentation at: 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; December 4-8, 2018; San Antonio, TX. Abstract P1-10-06.