Study Finds Blacks Have Highest Cancer Rates of All Racial Ethnicities, Yet Feel Less at Risk

Medical News Today, March 16, 2010

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However, a new study by University at Buffalo researchers shows that persons of different ethnic groups have different ideas and opinions about whether they are at risk for developing cancer–perceptions that can influence whether they undergo screening.

The study results reveal that blacks feel less at risk of getting cancer than do whites–the comparison group in the study–although they have the highest cancer incidence and mortality of all racial/ethnic groups.

Hispanics and Asians also believed they were at a lower risk than whites, results show, and the differences remained in all groups even when variables such as age and education are considered.

The study appears in the March issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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Respondents were asked how likely they thought it was that they would develop cancer in the future, (to determine their perceived risk) and answered questions on their family’s history of cancer, their history of cigarette smoking, how they rated their current health and their beliefs about the disease.

Results showed that blacks were less likely to report cancer in the family, which was associated with thinking they had a lower risk of developing the disease than did whites. Similar patterns emerged for Hispanics and Asians, results showed.

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Perceived risk also was lower among Hispanics and Asians because fewer members had a history of smoking, results showed. “Some cancers are strongly associated with smoking and others are not,” Orom [Heather Orom, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions] says. “It’s possible that if nonsmokers think they are at low risk of developing all cancers, it could keep them from getting cancer screening and embracing habits associated with lowering risk, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and being more physically active.”

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[“Perceived Cancer Risk: Why Is It Lower Among Nonwhites than Whites?” by Heather Orom, et al. is available from here. There is a charge.]

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