Cancer Health Disparities

Here has been substantial progress in cancer treatment, screening, diagnosis, and prevention over the past several decades, addressing cancer health disparities—such as higher cancer death rates, less frequent use of proven screening tests, and higher rates of advanced cancer diagnoses—in certain populations is an area in which progress has not kept pace.

These disparities are frequently seen in people from low-socioeconomic groups, certain racial/ethnic populations, and those who live in geographically isolated areas.

Documented cancer health disparities include: A higher incidence of a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer (the triple-negative subtype) among African American women than women of other racial/ethnic groups

substantially higher rates of prostate cancer incidence and death among African American men than men of other racial/ethnic groups

higher rates of kidney cancer among American Indian and Alaska Natives than other racial/ethnic groups. Higher rates of liver cancer among Asian and Pacific Islanders than other racial/ethnic groups

higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and death among Hispanic and African American women than women of other racial/ethnic groups. Many of the same population groups that experience cancer health disparities are also significantly underrepresented in cancer clinical trials.

There has been some recent evidence of progress against cancer health disparities, including reductions in lung and prostate cancer deaths among African American men over the past decade. But researchers and public health officials agree that progress has come too slowly, and the cost of disparities—in terms of premature deaths, lost productivity, and the impact on communities—remains substantial and must be addressed. Cancer disparities and equity research is needed to understand why some groups of people may be more or less likely to develop cancer, experience cancer-related health problems, or die from cancer than other groups of people.

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