Cancer deaths have declined for Black Americans but remain higher than in other racial and ethnic groups, according to a 10-year study published Thursday (May 19) in JAMA Oncology that blames social and economic disparities for the gap.
“The findings suggest that resources should be allocated toward eliminating social inequalities and barriers throughout the cancer control continuum that contribute to substantially higher cancer mortality rates among Black men and women,” the researchers stated.
According to an Associated Press analysis of the data, cancer death rates among Black Americans declined 2 percent each year from 1999 to 2019. The biggest declines were in lung cancer among Black men and stomach cancer among Black women. A reduction in smoking and better medical screenings and treatments contributed to the overall decline over the past two decades.
But Black men had the highest cancer death rates in 2019, 294 deaths per 100,000 compared to 249 deaths per 100,000 for white men. The death rate for Black men was almost double the lowest rate for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Factors including economic inequality, access to quality healthcare and mistrust of doctors fuel the racial disparity in cancer deaths, Wayne Lawrence, the study’s lead researcher, said.
Johns Hopkins University cancer prevention expert Dr. Otis Brawley told the AP that white Americans get better cancer care than Blacks because they typically have access to under-resourced hospitals with overworked doctors, among other factors.