A new joint report from multiple health agencies said that U.S. cancer deaths among African-American men have declined, but that racial disparities remain. According to CNN, the widest gap in treatment and survival rates occurs with cancers which are found through routine screenings such as breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, highlighting the importance of access to health care in cancer treatment and prevention.
The findings were reported in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and included data compiled by the American Cancer Society from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
The new report states that rates of cancer declined faster among African-American males than white males, falling at a rate of 2.4 percent annually as opposed to white men’s 1.7 percent, meaning that around 200,000 cancer deaths among African-Americans have been prevented since the 1990s.
Chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society Dr. Otis Brawley, who is also CNN’s expert on health conditions, said, “The decline is greater for black males because they started with higher rates of deaths and especially greater rates of preventable deaths.”
All races have declined since 1991, said Brawley, but the steeper declines among African-American men were first noted in 1999. Brawley said the decline shows that attempts to raise awareness of cancer prevention have been successful as well as the anti-smoking campaigns of the 1960s and ’70s.
Still, Brawley said, there’s a long way to go.
According to the report, “African American males have higher incidence rates than whites for all cancers combined (15 percent higher) and for the most common cancers (including prostate, lung, colorectal, kidney, and pancreas).” African-American men are still 33 percent more likely to die of cancer than white men.
And while African-American women have lower overall incidence rates of all cancers than whites (6 percent), African-American women are 16 percent more likely to die of cancer than white women. These gaps, said Brawley, are the result of unequal access to care and treatment.
While racial gaps are closing for some cancers, particularly prostate, lung and smoking-related cancers, racial disparities have increased for colorectal and breast cancers, both cancers that are best caught and treated early through routine testing, which is, again, an access issue.
“More can and should be done to accelerate this progress by making sure all Americans have equal access to cancer prevention, early detection and state-of-the-art treatments,” Brawley told CNN.
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