This study examined coping and distress in African American (n=8), Hispanic (n=53), and non-Hispanic White (n=70) women with early stage breast cancer. The participants were studied prospectively across a year beginning at the time of surgery. African American women reported the lowest levels of distress (particularly before surgery) and depression symptoms. Hispanic women reported the highest levels of self-distraction as a coping response, non-Hispanic Whites reported the highest use of humor. Hispanics reported the highest levels of venting, African Americans reported the lowest levels. African American and Hispanic women reported more religious coping than non-Hispanic Whites. The data also provided evidence of a maladaptive spiral of distress and avoidant coping over time. Although some ethnic differences were identified, findings also point to a great many similarities across groups. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.