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A new study suggests that black women are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than white women.

Researchers found that the average age of breast cancer diagnosis at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, east London, was 67 among white patients.

However, black patients tended to be diagnosed at the age of 46, suggesting that the disease strikes significantly earlier among the black population.

Dr Rebecca Bowen, who authored the Cancer Research UK study in the British Journal of Cancer, suggested that there may be biological differences between the two ethnic groups.

"It's important that we use the information learnt from this study to raise awareness of breast cancer risk factors and the importance of early detection among the black population," she added.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with 44,000 women diagnosed with the disease every year.

One in nine women can expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer, with four out of five cases arising in women aged 50 and over.

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Cancer news : 05/02/2008