A researcher with the VCU Massey Cancer Center is working to identify why Black women are more likely to develop heart disease after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Arnethea Sutton, Ph.D. says that her work aims “to understand why we see racial disparities. Why we see cardiovascular disease among breast cancer survivors.” Dr. Sutton is three years into a five-year study funded by the National Cancer Institute, which focuses on understanding these disparities among Black women.

Dr. Sutton’s research focuses specifically on studying blood pressure and hypertension among 150 women.

Understanding the Contributing Factors

Research shows that Black women have a higher chance of developing and dying from cardiovascular diseases. These conditions are likely to emerge after a breast cancer diagnosis, but researchers don’t know why.

“We know at this point that Black women are three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease after a breast cancer diagnosis, but we really don’t understand why” Dr. Sutton told CBS.

Dr. Sutton’s research takes a nuanced approach to understand what factors contribute to these disparities. So far, the study has shown that the risk of cardiovascular diseases is communicated differently to different women. According to Dr. Sutton, contributing factors go beyond diet or exercise.

“Say that all of these individuals receive this type of therapy and still you see a disparity in cardiovascular disease and that leads one to believe there has to be other things that are happening after or during treatment that’s contributing to why we see the differences.”

Currently, the study is seeking more participants, particularly Black women who have survived breast cancer and have undergone chemotherapy. Ultimately the goal for Dr. Sutton is, “To really develop something to help fix this.”