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10 Key Facts About Cancer in African Americans

A new report detailing cancer statistics among African Americans reveals a number of positive trends – including a shrinking cancer mortality gap between blacks and whites – but also some significant disparities.

The report, Cancer Statistics for African Americans, 2016, appears in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. A consumer version, Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2016-2018, is available on

Here are 10 key findings.

1. More than 300,000 cancer deaths among blacks have been averted since the early 1990s. While cancer rates in blacks have declined continuously over the past 20+ years, they’ve dropped fastest during the most recent time period for which data is available (2003-2012).

2. Black men have the highest cancer death rate of any racial/ethnic group in the US. In 2012, the overall cancer death rate was 24% higher in black men than in white men.

3. Black women have significantly higher death rates from breast cancer. During 2008-2012, breast cancer death rates among blacks were 42% higher than in whites.

4. Death rates from colorectal cancer are dropping faster for black women than for white women. From 2003-2012, death rates from colorectal cancer decreased 3.3% per year in black women and 2.9% in white women. As a result, the racial gap has begun to narrow.

5. Black men more likely than white men to die from colorectal cancer. Since 2005, colorectal cancer death rates remained about 50% higher in black men than in white men.

6. Overall cancer incidence rates are declining in black men. From 2003-2012, incidence rates dropped 2% per year for all cancers combined. Rates also dropped for prostate, lung and colorectal cancers.

7. Lung cancer death rates have dropped faster in blacks than whites. Lead author Carol DeSantis attributes this to the rapid decline in smoking among blacks over the last 4 decades.

8. Overall cancer incidence rates remain flat for black women. While breast cancer rates are on the rise in black women, rates for lung and colorectal cancer are declining.

9. Obesity, which increases cancer risk, is more prevalent among black women. Nearly 6 in 10 black women were obese in 2013-2014, compared to nearly 4 in 10 white women. (Obesity rates were similar in black and white men.)

10. Blacks fall short on physical activity. Being active helps reduce cancer risk, and blacks are less likely than whites to participate in leisure time physical activity. Blacks are also less likely to meet recommendations for aerobic activity.