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Cancer disparities occur when certain population groups suffer more from cancer. This happens when there are higher rates of new cancers diagnoses and/or cancer deaths between population groups, and can include such factors as race/ethnicity, sex, age and socioeconomic status.
Did you know that Blacks have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the US for most cancers?
Did you know that Black Men had a 24% higher incidence of colon cancer than Whites, with Black women being 19% higher? Black Men and Women are also diagnosed with colon cancer at an earlier age, often have more a more aggressive type of disease and are 15-20% more likely to die from it. In 2005 the American College of Gastroenterology recommended that African Americans begin screening for colon cancer at age 45 (when the age for average risk screening was still 50), yet less than HALF eligible Black patients were actually screened by this age.
Did you know that while the rates of breast cancer among Black and White women are similar, Black women have a 41% higher death rate? And for women under the age of 50, the risk of dying is twice that of young white women.
Did you know that Black men are 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.2 times more likely to die from it that white men? They are also slightly more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease.
Unfortunately, cancer disparities don’t apply only to diagnosis and mortality, we also know that significant disparities exist in the survivorship phase as well.
Did you know that Black women treated for breast cancer with HER2 targeted therapy have a higher incidence of cardiovascular side effects than their white counterparts? Black women also have a 2-fold increased risk of breast cancer-related lymphedema as well as increased risk of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Black women with breast cancer are disproportionately affected by the burdens of co-morbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The reason for these health care disparities is extremely complex and likely reflects social and economic disparities, cultural differences that affect cancer risk, biologic underpinnings and differences in access to high-quality health care. Strategies to reduce health care disparities is critically important and involves commitment to research studies that reflect the current US population (15% of patients with cancer are Black, yet only 4-6% are enrolled in clinical trials), commitment to hiring a more diverse oncology workforce (currently only 3% is Black) and commitment to decreasing the fragmentation of cancer care and primary care to ensure better management of co-morbid conditions.
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