U.S. Cancer Deaths Decline for Second Straight Year, Though Mortality Rates Still Higher for Blacks Than Whites
Although the number of cancer deaths in the U.S. declined by 3,014 from 2003 to 2004, marking the second consecutive decline in annual cancer deaths, blacks still have higher cancer mortality rates than whites, according to an American Cancer Society report released on Wednesday. Black women had a 9% lower cancer rate than white women but an 18% higher death rate. Black men had a 15% higher cancer rate and a 38% higher death rate than white men (Manning/Sternberg, USA Today, 1/18). For the report, ACS researchers reviewed U.S. death certificate data from 2004 compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics (Detroit Free Press, 1/18). ACS said the decline over two years indicates that the decrease in cancer deaths from 2002 to 2003 -- the first in more than 70 years -- was not a statistical fluke but potentially an emerging trend driven by smoking cessation increases and better detection and treatment of the most common types of cancers (Grady, New York Times, 1/17). Last year's report found that U.S. cancer deaths declined by 369 from 2002 to 2003. According to the new report, total cancer deaths in the U.S. decreased from 556,902 in 2003 to 553,888 in 2004 (Stein, Washington Post, 1/18). The cancer death rate -- the number of cancer deaths per 100,000 U.S. residents -- declined by about 2% in 2004, the same rate as in 2003, the report found. Prior to 2003, the cancer death rate had decreased about 1% annually for more than 10 years, but the total number of deaths continued to increase because of the growing and aging population (Stobbe, AP/Washington Examiner, 1/17).
Carla Boutin-Foster, co-director of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell's Center for Multicultural and Minority Health, said, "The prognosis is grim for African-Americans," noting that the reason for the disparity could be related to a lack of street-level cancer education programs; inadequate health insurance coverage; and poor nutrition, obesity and inactivity. Bruce Chabner, clinical director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, said, "It's a combination of poverty and where [black people] live," adding, "Many live in rural areas or urban centers served by large municipal hospitals that may not offer access to early diagnosis and specialty treatments." In addition, breast and prostate cancers in blacks can be "more advanced at diagnosis and more difficult to treat," Chabner said (USA Today, 1/18).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.
Several broadcast programs reported on the report. Summaries appear below.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Michael Thun, who tracks data for ACS; Tim Byers, deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center; and Bernard Levine, vice president for cancer prevention and population science at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas-Houston (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/18). In addition, "All Things Considered" included an interview with Allen Lichter, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Block, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/17).
Audio and a transcript of the first segment is available online. Audio and a transcript of the second segment also is available online.
- PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Harmon Eyre, chief medical officer at ACS (Warner, NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," PBS, 1/17).
Audio of the segment is available online.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Eyre (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 1/17).
Video of the segment is available online.