Racial disparities in cancer deaths on the decline for America

A new report has concluded that the racial disparities between cancer deaths among white and black Americans is on the decline. The study, however, emphasizes that more aggressive strategies are needed to bring the rates to same for some forms of cancer.

Map of AmericaJesse33 | Shutterstock

The report, entitled Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2019 was published in the latest issue of the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians on 14th February 2019.

The researchers gathered data regarding deaths, survival, risk factors and screening results from National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the National Center for Health Statistics. All of this data was obtained between 1975 and 2016.

The researchers found:

  • Among men, overall cancer related deaths were 47 percent higher for black men than white men in 1990.
  • In 2016, the difference between black and white men in terms of cancer deaths dropped to 19 percent.
  • There was little or no difference among men younger than 50.
  • Prostate cancer was the commonest cancer among black men while breast cancer was the commonest among black women. These cancers accounted for one third of all reported cases.
  • Between 2006 and 2015, cancer rates fell by 2.4 percent among black men and decreased by 1.7 percent among white men.
  • Among black women, cancer mortality rates were 19 percent in 1990, comparfed to 13 percent in 2016.
  • No racial differences were observed in women aged 70 and older.
  • Between 2006 and 2015, cancer rates remained same among black women but rose by 0.2 percent among white women.
  • Among black Americans, the four commonest cancers were breast, prostate, bowel or colorectal and lung.
  • The differences among black and white participant for prostate, bowel and lung cancer fell significantly.

Carol DeSantis, lead researcher and leader of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, said,

We have seen the most progress for lung cancer, followed by prostate and colorectal cancer. For breast cancer, the racial disparity continued to widen until 2010 and has since held steady.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that the racial disparity in cancer mortality is narrowing. This is also the first time that we looked at black-white disparities in cancer mortality by age groups, and it was very exciting to see the great progress in eliminating racial disparities in several age groups, including younger men and older women.”

The team then projected the cancer deaths among blacks in 2019. They calculated that there would be a total of 98,020 overall cancer cases among black men and 104,240 cases among black women.

“The message is progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go,” said Len Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer for the cancer society. He said that the Affordable Care Act could have made this difference.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Frank Speaking Frank Speaking Australia says:

    I wonder how much of that is due to Obamacare and whether the improvement continues under the Republican/trump Health system

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