So says a study in today's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
National Cancer Institute researchers found that male and female American Indians and Alaskan natives had the highest relative risk of cancer death for all cancers combined -- 70 percent higher for men and 80 percent higher for women. They also had the highest risk of death for most of the four most common cancers -- breast, colorectal, lung and prostate.
The exceptions to that trend were a 20 percent higher relative risk of cancer death for black men with colorectal cancer and a 60 percent higher relative risk for black women with breast cancer.
The researchers studied 917,021 men and 862,437 women diagnosed with their first cancer between Jan. 1, 1975, and Dec. 31, 1997, in nine geographic areas of the United States. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 84 percent of all the cancer patients, while 9 percent were black, 3 percent were Hispanic whites, and less than 1 percent were Hawaiian natives, American Indians and Alaskan natives.
Overall, relative risks for cancer death for all minority groups except Asian Americans were significantly higher for each of the four most common cancers and for all cancers combined. Asian men and women had the lowest relative risk (between 7 percent and 27 percent lower) for cancer death from the four common cancers. Asian American women had the lowest relative risk for all cancers combined.
The researchers say there may be a number of reasons for the different cancer death rates in ethnic groups. That includes differences in health-care access.
"Some studies have reported that as many as 30 percent to 50 percent of minority women with abnormal mammography findings did not receive a timely follow-up," the authors say.
"In summary, this study provides the first known population-based data on cancer-specific survival rates and relative risks of cancer death for the six major racial or ethnic groups in the United States. Additional research is needed to clarify the role of socioeconomic, medical, biological, cultural and other determinants of racial or ethnic differences in survival rates for patients with cancer described in this article," the authors say.
Take heart in this CNN report that says cancer death rates are declining.