Death rates are decreasing, but African-Americans are hit the hardest.
The good news: Thanks to better treatment, overall cancer deaths have decreased in the U.S. The bad news: African-Americans are still more likely to die from cancer than whites.
A new study from the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that between the years 2005 and 2009, out of 100,000, 288 Black men died from cancer compared to 217 white men. Black men are 33 percent more likely to die from cancer.
Out of 100,000 women, 181 Black women died from cancer compared to 155 white women, reported Reuters. Even worse, Black women are 16 times more likely to die from cancer but are 6 percent less likely to develop cancer.
So what’s the deal?
Lead author Carol DeSantis told Reuters, "Unfortunately, as treatments improve and newer treatments are coming out, we will see a widening disparity if people don't have equal access.” Hopefully, Obamacare and expanding health care to lower income Americans will help with screening and treatment disparities down the road.
Yet, not all of the news is negative: The racial death gap is getting smaller.
The cancer death rate for African-American men fell 2.4 percent each year, compared to 1.7 percent for white men. The study pointed out that this difference exists mostly due to the decrease in lung cancer deaths. Over the years, more Black men have quit smoking during the time period. Yet, among women, the cancer death rate decreased equally for both races by a total of 1.5 percent.
According to an American Cancer Society press release, the study also found:
—That in 2013, about 176,620 new cancer cases and 64,880 cancer deaths are expected among African-Americans.
—The most commonly diagnosed cancers among African-American men are prostate (37 percent of all cancers), lung (14 percent) and colon and rectum (10 percent).
—Among African-American women, the most common cancers are breast (33 percent of all cancers), lung (13 percent) and colon and rectum (11 percent).
—The higher overall cancer death rates among African-Americans compared to whites are due largely to higher death rates for cancers of the breast and colorectum in women and for cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus and colorectum in men.
While we are all at risk for developing cancer, especially if we have a family history of the disease, there are lifestyle changes that we all can make in lowering our risk. Limiting alcohol use, maintaining a healthy weight, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, working out and stopping smoking can make a difference.
Learn more about cancer and African-Americans here.
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(Photo: Chicago Tribune/MCT /Landov)