Gap in black, white new cancer diagnoses narrowing in Missouri; mortality rate gap falling more slowly, study finds

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The gap between blacks and whites in Missouri for newly diagnosed cancers is narrowing in part because of an overall decline in smoking and an increase in cancer screenings, according to a study to be published early next year in the journal Missouri Medicine, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The study -- led by Mario Schootman, an associate professor of epidemiology and medicine at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine and head of the Siteman Cancer Center -- examined data from the Missouri Cancer Registry and the state Department of Health and Senior Services from 1990 to 2005.

According to the study, the rate of new cancer diagnoses for blacks was 18% higher than it was for whites in 1996, but by 2003 the gap fell to 6%. "If the trend continues, we expect the difference in new diagnos[es] for blacks and whites will disappear by 2006," Schootman said, noting that 2006 data are not yet available.

The study also found that although the black cancer mortality rate fell from 48% higher than that of whites in 1996 to 28% higher by 2005, it is expected to remain higher than that of whites for about 15 to 20 more years. The study also found that when compared with whites:

  • Blacks were more likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, but their death rate from the cancer was 42% higher;
  • Black women had a 9% lower rate of breast cancer but a 46% higher breast cancer mortality rate;
  • Black men had a 116% higher rate of prostate cancer mortality; and
  • Black men had a 15% higher lung cancer mortality rate.
The study did not examine the reasons behind the findings, but Schootman said previous research has found that blacks have less access to care, do not get follow-up screenings or take advantage of available treatment, are not following healthy lifestyles and often have more aggressive tumors (Wittenauer, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/24).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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