Racial Gap in Cancer Deaths Almost Unchanged Since 1981, Study Finds
The gap in cancer mortality rates between blacks and whites remains as wide as it was in 1981, even though cancer death rates have dropped among all groups, according to an American Cancer Society study released on Wednesday, USA Today reports. According to the report, blacks are more likely to develop cancer and to die from the disease than any other racial group. Black patients also live a shorter time after diagnosis than other groups.
According to the study, black women are 16% more likely to die from the disease than white women, compared with 14% in 1981. Cancer death rates among black men are 33% higher than among whites -- a rate that is almost unchanged since 1981, the study found. However, according to the study, the overall death rate among black men has decreased faster than among white men because fewer black men are dying from lung and prostate tumors.
Study co-author Ahmedin Jemal said that blacks are more likely to live in poverty and have lower education levels compared with whites. Cancer mortality among black and white patients with at least a high school education was twice the rate of patients who had a college education, according to the study, but the rate remained higher among blacks even when they had the similar educational backgrounds as whites. The study also found that blacks are less likely to undergo screening for colorectal cancers and are more likely to be overweight and less active than whites, which contributes to an increased risk for developing cancer.
Peter Bach of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, said advanced-stage diagnoses are more common among blacks than whites, and they also are less likely to receive high-quality, timely treatment that could make a difference in their survival rate. Bach said the study suggests that reducing racial disparities in cancer needs a "global approach" that deals with each of the factors that contribute to the cancer mortality rate among blacks (Szabo, USA Today, 2/18).