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News » Filed under: Disparities, General Information

Cancer Disparities: Key Statistics

Article date: April 1, 2008

In any nation, the well-off tend to enjoy better health care -- and better health -- than do the poor and/or members of minority groups. This is true in the United States, where experts say better access to health care corresponds to lower rates of disease, including cancer.

But differences may also be due in part to lifestyle choices, cultural habits, and the physical and genetic characteristics of cancer cells themselves. More clues about what's going on with cancer disparity show up each year in Facts & Figures, an annual American Cancer Society update on the factors that influence cancer cases and deaths. For several years the reports have shown some disturbing trends, such as the following:

African Americans

  • Overall, African Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic population.
  • African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer than whites.
  • African Americans are less likely than whites to survive 5 years after a diagnosis with most forms of cancer, at any stage of diagnosis.
  • Despite its preventable nature, colon cancer continues to kill a disproportionate number of African Americans each year. Colorectal cancer incidence rates among African American men and women are about 17% higher than in white men and women.
  • African-American women have a lower incidence rate of breast cancer than white women. Yet black women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

For more detailed information, see Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2007-2008 and Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2007-2008.

Hispanics/Latinos

  • Hispanics have lower incidence rates for all cancers combined when compared to whites, but generally have higher rates of cancers associated with certain infections, such as uterine cervix, liver, gallbladder, and stomach cancers.
  • Breast cancer is more frequently diagnosed at a later stage in Hispanic women than in non-Hispanics. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis for Hispanic women.
  • Liver cancer rates are twice as high in Hispanic men and women when compared to whites.
  • Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both Hispanic/Latino men and women.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Hispanics in the US, accounting for about 20% of all deaths.

For more detailed information, see Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2006-2008.

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) over the age of 45, according to the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC).
  • Access to health care is a problem for American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are second only to Hispanics in lacking health insurance, according to ICC.
  • Lung and colorectal cancer incidence rates for AI/AN -- both men and women -- are significantly higher than they are for white people.
  • From 1999 to 2004, new diagnoses for cancers of the kidney, stomach, liver, cervix, and gallbladder were higher in AI/AN than in white populations.
  • Most groups of American Indians are less likely than whites to be diagnosed in the early stages of colorectal cancer.
  • AI/AN women in all regions of the US are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with localized -- and therefore easier to treat -- cancer of the breast or cervix.

For more detailed information about how cancer affects American Indians and Alaska Natives, see the "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer 1975-2004, Featuring Cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives," published in the Nov. 15, 2007 issue of the American Cancer Society journal Cancer.

Asian Americans

  • Asian Americans have the lowest cancer incidence and death rates when compared to non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, and Hispanics in the US. However, cancer is the leading cause of death among Asian Americans, with heart disease being first among the other all other American racial and ethnic groups.
  • A significant number of Korean Americans have never heard of the Pap test, a decades-old standard for cervical cancer screening.
  • Cancer affects Asian Americans in very different ways, based on country of origin. According to a study of the 5 largest Asian-American groups -- Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese -- colorectal cancer rates are highest among Chinese Americans; prostate cancer is more and common and more often deadly among Filipino men; and Vietnamese women have the highest incidence and death rates from cervical cancer.

For more information, see "Cancer Incidence, Mortality, and Associated Risk Factors Among Asian Americans of Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese Ethnicities," published in the July/August 2007 issue of the American Cancer Society journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

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