Racial Gap in Death Rates Narrows for Some Cancers

Yet African-Americans have higher death rates, shorter survival than others for most cancers

TUESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer death rates are declining among African-Americans, but they still have higher death rates and shorter survival than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society's "Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2011-2012" report.

The report reveals that the higher cancer death rate among African-Americans is largely attributable to higher mortality rates from breast and colorectal cancers in women and from prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers in men. However, death rates for lung and other smoking-related cancers and for prostate cancer decreased faster among African-American men as compared with white men, resulting in a narrowing of the gap in overall cancer death rates. In addition, lung cancer death rates for young African-Americans and whites have converged in men and women. But the racial disparity appears to have increased in recent years for colorectal cancer in both men and women and for breast cancer in women.

Despite the overall racial disparity in cancer death rates decreasing in 2007, the death rate for all cancers combined continued to be 32 percent higher among African-American men and 16 percent higher in African-American women as compared with white men and women, respectively. While the use of colorectal screening tests among African-Americans increased over the last two decades, use remained lower as compared with whites. In addition, mammography screening appeared to be slightly lower among African-American women aged 40 and older as compared with whites (52 versus 54 percent).

"African-Americans are disproportionately represented in lower socioeconomic groups. For most cancers, the lower the socioeconomic status, the higher the risk," Otis W. Brawley, M.D., American Cancer Society chief medical officer, said in a statement.

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