Longtime cancer disparities between African Americans and whites – with blacks having a sharply higher mortality rate – have narrowed significantly over the past few years and have disappeared almost entirely for few age groups, including men under 50 and women who are 70 and older, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.
African Americans still have the highest death rate and the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers. But the report noted the overall cancer death rate was dropping faster in blacks than in whites because of the larger declines for three of the four most common cancers – lung, prostate and colorectal
The result: The "excess risk "The death rate in blacks, compared with whites, fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent in 2016 for men and from 19 per cent to 13 per cent for women, according to the study."
"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 community.
The biggest factor in narrowing the gap has been more rapid reductions in smoking and lung cancer over the past four decades in blacks than in whites, he said.
He said that while racial disparities are critically important, gaps in cancer death rates are also caused by factors such as socio-economic and educational status and where a person lives.
Lichtenfeld noted that early evidence suggests that the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded health insurance coverage, has helped to "make a difference" in narrowing cancer disparities but
The cancer community said overall cancer death rates were lower in blacks than in whites during the 1950s. But the African American rate increased sharply after that, in the 1990s.
Disparities developed as white – but not blacks – benefited from gains made in improved cancer detection and treatment, Lichtenfeld said. African Americans were less likely to have access to early diagnosis. At the same time, he added, the black community was "overwhelmingly targeted in advertising by cigarette manufacturers and alcohol folks."
The cancer society publishes data on cancer incidence, mortality and other measures every three years, using data from the National Cancer Institute, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the National Center for Health Statistics.
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