Cancers that are more prevalent in minorities and the role of MRI

Specialties Article 4 Minute Read GE Healthcare Global

There were roughly 1.7 million people newly diagnosed with cancer in 2018 in the United States.1 Cancer does not have a clear cause despite all the research that has been done. However, it is clear that cancer affects people of all ages and races. Certain cancer affect different groups more than other, especially breast, kidney, liver, prostate and multiple myeloma. This may be true specifically in people with low socioeconomic status.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer can affect both women and men, though it is more rare among men. Because of this, women over a certain age undergo routine mammograms, and follow-up imaging in some cases, on a yearly basis. African American women may be significantly more likely than white women to pass from breast cancer.2 This may partially be due to the stage cancer is diagnosed and the rate of imaging 

According to a study from 2016, follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was more likely to be completed of non-Hispanic white women than those who are in the minority.3 Women who may have received more education were also more likely to have MRI than those with less education. MRI may be an excellent tool for staging cancers and monitoring disease progression and treatment effectiveness.4 MRI has also been particularly useful in monitoring possible metastases, or breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Whole-body MRI may be used to monitor far-reaching metastasis.

Kidney cancer

In 2018, there were roughly 65,340 new cases of kidney and renal pelvis cancer in the U.S.1 Native American and Alaska Natives have a higher rate of kidney cancer cases than people of any other ethnicity in the United States.2 This type of cancer is typically imaged by computed tomography (CT), but MRI has begun to prove itself in the field.

Magnetic resonance imaging can be particularly useful for the imaging of soft tissue. This may provide physicians with a tool for the detection and characterization of lesions. Because of this, MR may be used to image kidney cancer. MR kidney imaging my require breath-holds because of the respiratory motion within the abdomen. Techniques such as respiratory gating can help reduce motion artifacts.5 

Liver cancer

Many individuals understand at least one of the risk factors for liver cancer is related to alcoholism and can more likely lead to having the disease. However, many may not realize that cancer of the liver may be more likely to occur in Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders and people of Asian descent.2

MRI is an excellent tool for imaging the liver. Although it is not usually first to scan for cancer, MRI can provide detailed images of soft tissue in the body.6 This allows radiologists and oncologists to see abnormalities, like tumors. MRI may also help to tell a benign live tumor from a malignant one or to look at blood vessels in and around the liver. Ultrasound and CT may also be used to image liver cancer.

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Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men worldwide. African American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than their white counterparts.2 One of the tests for this kind of cancer can be marked by an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. This is monitored through blood tests and typically followed by biopsy if the level is elevated.

However, MRI may have the potential to reduce the number of biopsies needed.7 This is because MRI can help to image tumors. If the MRI shows tumors or is unclear, the oncologist may still order a biopsy. The MRI method utilized in this process is multi-parametric MRI, which combines T2-weighted, diffusion weighted and dynamic contrast enhanced MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. T2-weighted imaging may be one of the conventional scans a patient receives. Diffusion weighted MR imaging (DW-MRI) is a method that evaluates the Brownian motion (random motion of molecules in a liquid) to present a clear image of the prostate. Dynamic contrast enhanced involves the radiologist scanning the patient after a dye has been injected, while magnetic resonance spectroscopy measure chemical changes throughout the scan. Multi-parametric MRI may also be used to stage and monitor disease progression.

Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of hematologic cancers which may be seen as bone lesions. African Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma.2 This type of cancer originates in the bone marrow, which is a fleshy part of the body inside the bone that produces blood. It can affect the whole body, because of this.

MRI has a high sensitivity for early detection of bone lesions. Radiologists can see excellent images of the suspected cancerous areas without the need for invasive testing or ionizing radiation.8 The traditional scans for this type of cancer are bone scans and CT scans. Recent studies have shown that MRI may have a higher sensitivity than both.8

MRI may help stage and monitor cancer throughout the body, including the breasts, kidney, liver, prostate, and bone. This method allows imaging of the cancers that affect individuals throughout the world. It may be important for patients to realize just what type of cancer could affect them the most, as their physicians may be able to detect it while it’s in an earlier stage. Ensure to check early on with your physician to increase options for treatment and possibly lengthen survival rates.


1. “Cancer Stat Facts: Cancer of Any Site.” Web. 11 April 2019. <>.

2. “Cancer Disparities.” Web. 11 April 2019. <>.

3. Jennifer S. Haas, et al. “Disparities in the Use of Screening Breast MRI in Community Practice by Race, Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status.” Cancer. 15 February 2016; 122(4): 611-617. Web. 11 April 2019. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29805.

4. Anil Kumar Swayampakua, Charlotte Dillis and Jame Abraham. “Role of MRI in screening, diagnosis and management of breast cancer.” Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy. 2008; 8(5): 811-81. Web. 11 April 2019. doi: 10.1586/14737140.8.5.811.

5. J. J. Nikken and G. P. Krestin. “MRI of the kidney–state of the art.” Eur Radioli. November 2007; 17(11):2780-2793. Web. 11 April 2019. doi: 10.1007/s00330-007-0701-3.

6. The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. “Tests for Liver Cancer.” 28 April 2016. Web. 12 April 2019. <>.

7. Gillian Murphy, et al. “The Expanding Role of MRI in Prostate Cancer.” AJR. December 2013; 201(6):1229-1238. Web. 11 April 2019. doi: 10.2214/AJR.12.10178.

8. Mario Morone, et al. “Whole-Body MRI: Current Applications in Oncology.” American Journal of Roentgenology. 2017; 209: W336-W349. Web. 27 March 2019. doi: 10.2214/AJR.17.17984.