Cancer is a formidable adversary that affects millions of lives in the United States, and the battle is even tougher for Black and African Americans. Recent research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health exposes a grim reality: Black/African Americans experience the highest mortality rate of all racial and ethnic groups for various cancers and major causes of death.
A Disturbing Disparity
The statistics are disheartening, with death rates for all major causes of death significantly higher among Black/African Americans than non-Hispanic whites. This unfortunate trend contributes to a lower life expectancy for both Black/African American men and women.
From 2015 to 2019, African American men were 1.2 times more likely to have new cases of colon and prostate cancer compared to non-Hispanic white men. Shockingly, they were 1.8 times as likely to have stomach cancer and 2.5 times more likely to succumb to it. Additionally, Black/African American men exhibited lower five-year cancer survival rates for most cancer sites, including a staggering twofold higher mortality rate for prostate cancer.
Black/African American women faced equally alarming statistics. They were twice as likely to be diagnosed with stomach cancer and 2.3 times more likely to die from it compared to non-Hispanic white women. In the case of breast cancer, while the diagnosis rates were similar, Black/African American women were nearly 40% more likely to lose their lives to it.
Breast Cancer Disparities
Breast cancer is a particularly illustrative example of these health disparities. Dr. Tesia McKenzie, a breast surgical oncologist, emphasizes that women of color not only receive breast cancer diagnoses later but also face higher mortality rates. Researchers are actively investigating the factors contributing to these disparities and seeking more personalized approaches to cancer screenings based on genetics and individual risk assessments.
Lung Cancer Screening Challenges
Lung cancer, too, presents significant disparities. Black individuals with lung cancer are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment, more likely to go untreated, and less likely to survive five years compared to their white counterparts. Dr. Lisa Carter-Bawa, a researcher and nurse, is particularly concerned about the alarmingly low rates of lung cancer screening in the African American community. Only 1.7% of eligible African Americans have undergone lung cancer screening, partly due to a lack of awareness about early detection tests and stigma surrounding smoking.
Addressing Disparities and Promoting Equity
These disparities in cancer prevention and care for Black Americans are cause for concern and demand urgent attention. Efforts must focus on raising awareness, promoting early detection, and providing equitable access to screening and treatment. Destigmatizing lung cancer screenings and developing tailored approaches to cancer care can make a significant difference in addressing these troubling statistics.
In conclusion, addressing the disparities in cancer mortality rates among Black Americans is a critical step toward achieving health equity. With continued research, increased awareness, and targeted interventions, progress can be made in the fight against cancer, ensuring that all Americans have an equal chance at a healthier future.