Over the past two decades, Black fatalities from cancer have steadily declined but social and economic disparities have left the community's death toll higher than its white, Asian, and Hispanic counterparts. According to a Jama Oncology study, the Black death rate fell two percent yearly from 1999 to 2019 but was nearly double that of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In 2019, for every 100,000, 294 Black men died from cancer while the rate for white men was 249 deaths in the same population size. The rate for Hispanic men was 177 deaths out of 100,000 and 255 deaths were recorded per 100,000 for Native American men, data revealed Thursday (May 19).
The overall decline across demographics can be attributed to decreased smoking rates and technological advancements in detection and treatment. Black Americans have particularly made strides in lung cancer among men and stomach cancer among women, both of which are linked to less smoking.
However, the comparatively disproportionate rate of Black cancer fatalities continues to be associated with poverty, less access to care, and mistrust of doctors, National Cancer Institute researcher Wayne Lawrence said.
Carla Williams, a Howard University cancer disparities expert, told ABC News, “It’s showing that we can’t simply rely on medical care as a way to address and eliminate the disparities."
Black people also receive worse cancer care than white Americans because they are more likely to be treated at overworked and resource-strapped hospitals, Cancer expert Dr. Otis Brawley said. Brawley also noted that Black people are less likely to have a college degree, and seeking higher education makes individuals more likely to exercise, not be obese, and get medical care when needed.