Cancer Rates Dropping Among Black Americans02/05/13
TUESDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A new report finds that
cancer rates among blacks in the United States are on the decline,
especially among black men, and the improvement may have saved
almost 200,000 people from dying of the disease since the early
Still, blacks continue to be more likely to die of cancer than
whites, and researchers say they don't have a good handle on why.
There are many possible explanations, everything from genetics to
choices about health to the treatment of blacks in doctor's office
and differences in wealth and education.
In the big picture, "it's the good news, bad news story," said
report author Carol DeSantis, an epidemiologist with the American
Despite the positive numbers, she said, "the African-American
community is still unduly burdened by cancer. They have the highest
death rates [for many types of cancer], poorer survival and are
more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage disease."
Specifically, the report found that:
- Black males are 15 percent more likely than whites to get
cancer and the most common cancers are prostate, lung, colon,
kidney and pancreas malignancies. They're also a third more likely
to die, even though their death rates have been declining faster
than white men, largely because they're smoking less, DeSantis
- Overall, black females are 6 percent less likely to get cancer
than whites, but their death rate once they are diagnosed is 16
percent higher. One of the problems is that they're more likely to
get an especially deadly form of breast cancer. "African-American
women get breast cancer at a lower rate, but they're more likely to
die from the disease," DeSantis said.
- Colon cancer is about 22 percent more common in blacks than
whites, and death rates are roughly 50 percent higher. Researchers
say this is because blacks have more risk factors, are screened
less often and are typically treated differently.
- The good news: Cancer death rates have declined since the early
1990s by 2.4 percent a year for black men (higher than a 1.7
percent annual decline among whites), while they've gone down by
about 1.5 percent a year for both white and black women.
Dr. Dalliah Black, a surgical oncologist at the University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said it's difficult to
figure out the causes of the differences in how cancer affects
whites and blacks.
She said biology may play a role, along with differences in how
doctors treat patients of different races. Skepticism among blacks
about the medical profession could be a factor, she added, "but I
don't think it's as pervasive of a feeling in the African-American
community as in the past."
What to do?
Black said more cancer screening is crucial, and "there's a lot
of room for improvement in increasing public awareness about
cancers that can be treated. That can translate into improvement in
survival," she said.
The report appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
For more about
disparities in cancer care, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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