Cancer Study: Lower Survival Rates for Blacks in U.S.

Anne-Gerard Flynn, MassLive, January 2, 2018

The largest study to date of population-based cancer survival in the United States shows significant disparities in survival rates over a five-year period between blacks and whites for nine of the leading 10 cancers in the country studied.

The study, which covers the years 2001 to 2003 and 2004 to 2009 in the United States, follows and draws on the 2015 worldwide CONCORD2 cancer study published in England. It shows lower survival rates for black women compared to white women with breast, cervical, or ovarian cancers, as well as lower survival rates among black men with prostate cancer compared to white men with the disease, and lower survival rates for blacks compared to whites for a number of other cancers including colon, rectal, and lung.

Survival rates are low over a five-year-period for stomach cancer, which showed only small differences between whites and blacks, as are survival rates for liver cancer.

Black children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the one cancer studied in children, also had lower survival rates compared to white children.

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The study’s data on patients diagnosed with cancer was from a nationwide network of 37 cancer registries, including one in Massachusetts, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps to support and are said to cover 80 percent of the population.

The study, comprised of 10 cancer-specific papers that drew on the CONCORD2 study in providing the percentage of people alive for at least five years after their diagnosis for the specific cancer studied, is published online in a supplement to the American Cancer Society’s oncology journal Cancer.

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The National Cancer Institute has studied for several decades cancer health disparities among racial and ethnic groups, something it defines as “adverse differences in cancer incidence (new cases), cancer prevalence (all existing cases), cancer death (mortality), cancer survivorship, and burden of cancer or related health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.”

The American Cancer Society’s report, “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2016-2018,” shows results similar to the just published study. The ACS report, looking at data from 2008 to 2012, said black men have a 12 percent higher incidence of cancer compared to white men, as well as a death rate from all cancers combined that is 27 percent higher.

The ACS report found black women to have a 6 percent lower risk of a cancer diagnosis than white women, but a 14 percent higher risk of cancer death. Death rates for breast and uterine cancers for black women are said to be 42 percent higher for breast cancer than for white women and 92 percent higher for uterine cancer.

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