Even as overall cancer death rates continue a downward trend among black Americans, the community still bears the biggest brunt of cancer-related deaths in the United States, a new report shows.
The American Cancer Society report released on Tuesday noted that as recently as 2007, cancer fatalities among black men remained 32 percent higher than that of white men, while the cancer death rate among black women hovered at 16 percent above that of white women.
The findings also showed that, for most cancers, blacks face the shortest cancer survival prognosis compared with all other races and ethnicities.
Breast and colorectal cancer deaths make up the bulk of excess deaths for black women, while higher fatalities among black men were due to prostate, lung and colorectal cancers.
However, the report does feature some bright spots: the overall gap between black and whites in terms of cancer deaths has narrowed in recent years due to the faster decline in the rate of death among blacks (relative to whites) for both lung cancer (and other smoking-related cancers) and prostate cancer.
In fact, lung cancer fatality rates have actually evened out among younger blacks and whites, the report noted.
Yet, the news is not equally good for all cancers, the cancer society cautioned. For example, the race gap appears to have widened for deaths among women with breast cancer and for both men and women with colorectal cancer.
“While the factors behind these racial disparities are multifaceted, there is little doubt socioeconomic status plays a critical role,” Dr. Otis W.
Brawley, chief medical officer for the cancer society, said in a news release. “Black Americans are disproportionately represented in lower socioeconomic groups. For most cancers, the lower the socioeconomic status, the higher the risk.”