Cancer Deaths for Blacks Remain High

Despite overall decline since the 1990s, report says more focus, education is needed

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THURSDAY, Feb. 1, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Since the early 1900s, there has been a decline in overall cancer death rates among black Americans but they're still higher than the rates for whites, says an American Cancer Society report released Thursday.

In 2003, black men had a 35 percent higher cancer death rate than white men, and black women had an 18 percent higher rate than white women, according to the report, Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2007-2008.

But cancer death rates among blacks decreased by an average of 1.7 percent a year from 1995 to 2003, compared to 1.0 percent a year among whites from 1992 to 2003.

Of the 1.4 million cases of invasive cancer that will be diagnosed in the United States in 2007, 153,000 will be among blacks. And blacks will account for about 63,000 of the estimated 560,000 cancer deaths in the United States this year, the report said.

Prostate, lung and bronchus, colon and rectum are the most common kinds of cancers diagnosed in black men, while the most common kinds of cancers in black women are breast, lung and bronchus, colon and rectum.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both black women and men, followed by breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

The report also said:

  • Blacks had the highest death rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancer combined and for most major cancers.
  • Death rates for blacks with prostate cancer are 2.4 times higher than for whites, and death rates for black breast cancer patients are 1.4 times higher than for whites.
  • Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer when it's at a more advanced stage when there are fewer and less effective treatment options.
  • In general, blacks are less likely to survive five years after being diagnosed with a major cancer.

"Access to insurance and health care, as well as health education, play an important role in one's health, but a lot of African Americans do not have access to these tools," Dr. Durado Brooks, the American Cancer Society's director of prostate and colorectal cancers, said in a prepared statement.

This report highlights the "need for more focus on improving socioeconomic factors and providing educational opportunities that can help further lessen cancer's unequal burden on African Americans," Brooks said.

More information

The U.S. Office of Minority Health has more about cancer and racial disparities.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Feb. 1, 2007

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