Despite overall improvements in care across all races over the years, African Americans still suffer the greatest burden for the most common types of cancer. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, we're determined to increase awareness of prevention, early detection and treatment tools that can help everyone in our community to lead healthier lives.
African Americans had the highest death rate and shortest survival time for most cancers of any racial and ethnic group in the nation as of 2005, the newest data available, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although the overall difference in cancer death rates among racial groups is decreasing, the death rate for all cancers combined in 2005 continued to be 33 percent higher in African American men and 16 percent higher in African American women than in Caucasian men and women, respectively. African American men also had the highest rates of cancer development of any race from 2001 to 2005.
The reasons for these differences are complex. Inequalities that continue to exist among racial groups in a wide variety of areas—including work, income, education, housing and overall standard of living—likely play a role. Studies have shown that barriers to high-quality health care and racial discrimination may also be to blame. Some research has also suggested that biology and genetics may explain why African American breast, ovarian and prostate cancer patients tend to die earlier than patients of other races, even with the same medical treatment and living situations.
African Americans and lung cancer
Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in African American men and women, according to U.S. government data. Lung cancer was 36 percent more common in African American men than in Caucasian men but occurred at about the same rate for African American and Caucasian women during between 2001 and 2005, the latest data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
One way to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer is to refrain from smoking, which causes most cancers of the lung and other related areas, including the lip and esophagus. Our researchers are studying ways to encourage people, particularly teenagers, to drop this unhealthy habit.
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