Mary J. Blige revealed she didn't know about breast cancer or mammograms until the age of 40, Essence reports

The 50-year-old musician participated in a panel discussion titled "Screening the System: A Dialogue on Bias and Breast Health." Black women are over 40% more likely to die from breast cancer.

"I didn't know about breast cancer or mammograms until I was 40, and I was in the music business, and I was trying to take care of myself. My body started talking, so I started listening," she said.

"I found out about it at the GYN. They don't discuss this when we're children. They don't say, 'Go get a mammogram.' You learn about this as you get older," the entertainer said. "So they don't speak about it, and that's why they end up in the hospital with two weeks to live, and now you know about it. That's why it's extremely important to me."

Blige opened up about having relatives die from the disease.

"My aunt died from breast cancer. My grandmother died from cervical cancer, and one of my aunts just died from lung cancer," the "Thick Of It" singer shared. "What happens is they end up in the hospital, and there's no one in our families speaking about it when we're younger."

The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducted a study that found that Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers compared to other racial and ethnic groups due to lack of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2. The ACS reports that breast cancer is also the second most common cause of cancer deaths among Black women, surpassing lung cancer. 

At the panel, Blige was joined by MPH and Chicago-based physician Dr. Arlene Richardson and Black Women's Health Imperative president and CEO Linda Goler Blount, who shared that Black women develop breast cancer at a younger age. 

"We develop breast cancer younger. About 25-28% of our breast cancers occur under the age of 50. Eight percent occur under the age of 40," Blount said. "If we were to wait to start looking for breast cancer at 50, another 12 to 1,300 Black women would die every year. Why would we do that?" 

She continued, expressing frustration with a lack of inclusivity in studies and the impact that has on the accessibility of information around cancer. 

"The problem is the studies don't include Black women. Clearly, things are different," she said. "We need more research on Black women and why cancer develops in Black women and what that means for our lived experience before we apply a policy to them."

Blige ended the conversation on a powerful note. 

"I'm here to let women know, no matter how scary it is or who's telling you it's scary, take care of yourself. Take care of your health," the Power Book II: Ghost star said.

"My health is my wealth. My health is my beauty. Beauty is healing from the inside out. If you're sick, you can't be healthy; you can't glow; you can't shine. You can't be an example to people," the 50-year-old continued. "I've been in the forefront all my life as Mary J. Blige, the singer: Mary J. Blige fell on her face, Mary J. Blige got back up, Mary J. Blige's business is on Twitter, and Mary J. Blige has albums that help women heal from a broken heart. So now I want to help women heal from breast cancer. I want to help us feel beautiful all the way around.”

Blige was recently announced as one of the Super Bowl LVI halftime show performers along with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.