Racial Gap in Cancer Deaths As Wide As in 1981

Liz Szabo, USA Today, February 17, 2009

Blacks are more likely to develop cancer and die from the disease than any other group, according to a report released today. Black patients also live a shorter time after diagnosis than others.

Death rates have fallen in recent decades for all groups, and the gap between the races has fluctuated over the years. Yet the gap between blacks and whites is just as wide today as it was in 1981, report co-author Ahmedin Jemal says.

Among women, for example, death rates were 14% higher for blacks than whites in 1981. Today, those rates are 16% higher. Death rates are 33% higher among black men than whites, a difference that is almost unchanged since 1981.

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But blacks tend to be diagnosed at more advanced stages than whites, whose cancers are more often found at earlier, more curable stages. Blacks also are less likely than whites to get high-quality treatment in time to make a difference, says Peter Bach of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who was not involved in the new study.

In a groundbreaking 2004 study, Bach showed that the doctors who treated blacks were less likely to be board-certified and often lacked crucial resources, such as access to diagnostic imaging tests and specialists.

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{snip} Yet blacks still have higher death rates than whites, even when they have the same level of education, the report shows.

Blacks are less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer and are more likely than whites to be overweight and sedentary, which can increase the risk of developing many kinds of cancers, the report shows.

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[Editor’s Note: The report, unnamed in the article above, is “Cancer Facts and Figures for African Americans 2009-2010.” It can be can be read or downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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