Cancer Disparities in the Black Community

African Americans have a higher cancer burden and face greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survival. In fact, Black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers in the U.S. Research has shown that:

  • African Americans experience more illness, worse outcomes, and premature death compared to whites.
  • African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers. African American men also have the highest cancer incidence.
  • Cancer death rates in black men is twice as high as in Asians and Pacific Islanders, who have the lowest rates.
  • Prostate cancer death rates in black men are more than double those of every other racial/ethnic group.
  • Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and are twice as likely to die if they are over 50.
  • About a third of African American women reported experiencing racial discrimination at a health provider visit.
  • Living in segregated communities and areas highly populated with African Americans has been associated with increased chances of getting diagnosed with cancer after it has spread, along with having higher death rates and lower rates of survival from breast and lung cancers.
Black father holding son outdoors


How is the American Cancer Society addressing cancer disparities in the Black community?

Here are some ways ACS is working to address cancer disparities in the Black community and for other groups facing health inequities.

  • We’re enhancing the knowledge and skills of our staff and volunteers. Our efforts include strengthening our own health equity knowledge, skills, action, and organizational culture to help reduce and, where possible, eliminate health disparities.
  • We’re conducting and supporting health disparities and health equity research.  As of March 1, 2020, ACS is funding 59 health disparities research grants, reflecting $50 million in research to better understand what cancer disparities and inequities exist, what causes them, and how to decrease them.
  • We’re working with community leaders. Through a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), ACS has pilot health equity community projects that are exploring, identifying, and putting community-driven solutions in place to help improve financial stability or increase access to healthy foods and food security.
  • We’re working with partners
    • With funding from the NFL, ACS is supporting 2-year grants to health systems in 32 cities through the CHANGE (Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity) Program to help women get access to breast cancer screening, timely follow-up of abnormal mammograms, and timely access to care, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
    • ACS is partnering with Pfizer to reduce the breast cancer mortality disparity between Black and white women, reduce disparities impacting Black men facing prostate cancer, and reduce systemic barriers and address disparities in the delivery of cancer care impacting outcomes for Black people facing cancer.
  • We’re advocating for public health policies. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is actively working to get public policies in place at the local, state and federal levels that help to reduce disparities and improve health outcomes for people in the U.S. Here are examples that highlight ACS CAN’s work on health equity issues.