By Alice Park
October 3, 2017
TIME Health
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Efforts to improve screening and access to treatment for breast cancer are making a difference nationally, according to the latest figures from the American Cancer Society.

From 1989 to 2015, deaths from the disease dropped by 39%, which translates to 322,600 lives saved from breast cancer. The latest numbers continue a steady downward trend for breast cancer deaths over the past few decades.

In some states, the death rates from breast cancer among white women and black women are equalizing, suggesting that access to screening and treatments are more evenly distributed in those parts of the country.

But the data still show that black women have the highest death rates from breast cancer nationally. Among black women, the death rate was 42% higher than among white women from 2011 to 2015. Other studies have documented that black women tend to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage cancers, which are harder to treat and have higher mortality rates. Aggressive triple negative cancers that are deadlier are also more common among this group of women.

MORE: I Treated Breast Cancer for Years as a Doctor. Then I Was Diagnosed

The overall drop in mortality is a positive sign suggesting that wider mammogram screening and improved treatments for the disease are helping women survive breast cancer. Yet in the U.S., breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women and the second deadliest. During her lifetime, a woman has a one in eight chance of developing the disease. Ensuring that more states start to equalize access to screening and treatments is critical to sustaining the decline in deaths, say the authors.

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