There is some good news to report in the effort to reduce cancer deaths among African Americans in the United States. According to the 2013-2014 edition of Cancer Facts and Figures for African Americans, nearly 200,000 deaths from cancer among African Americans were averted between 1990 and 2009 as cancer death rates continued to decrease among this group.
“The new report shows a significant reduction in overall cancer death rates among African Americans since the early 1990s, due to reduction in smoking prevalence and improved detection and treatment for many cancers,” said Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, vice president of Surveillance and Health Services Research at the American Cancer Society, and lead author of the report. “Early detection of cancers of the female breast, colon and rectum, and cervix among African Americans contributed to this reduction.”
Although African Americans have experienced higher death rates from cancer than whites for many years, death rates declined faster from 2000-2009 compared to white males and females. The decrease in cancer death rates among African American males was the largest of any other racial or ethnic group.
But the news is not all good. While black/white disparities have narrowed for some cancers, they continued to increase for colorectal cancer and female breast cancer, cancers that are affected by early detection and access to the best treatment. “Improving access to early detection and treatment could reverse the growing racial disparity in female breast and colorectal cancer mortality rates,” said Dr. Jemal.
Survival rates for most cancers remain lower for African Americans than whites, but more research is needed to determine whether low survival rates can be attributed to unequal access to quality health care or other factors.
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