While researchers have not been able to pinpoint a single cause for cancer, we know that several variables are involved. Our age, race, genetics, lifestyle and environment can influence our chances of developing it. Some of these variables such as race can cause differences or inequalities known as cancer disparities. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), African Americans have the highest cancer death rate of any racial group for all cancers combined. This is a huge disparity and one that is not experienced by other ethic groups to quite the extent it is in African-America individuals. Continue reading
April is National Minority Health Month, so we thought that this would be a great time to discuss the impact of cancer on minorities in the United States and what the University of Michigan is doing to address this problem of minorities and cancer health disparities.
Minorities and Cancer Disparities
According to the National Cancer Institute, “cancer health disparities” are defined as “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of cancer and related adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.”
Complex and interrelated factors contribute to the observed disparities in cancer incidence and death among racial, ethnic and underserved groups. The most obvious factors are associated with a lack of health care coverage and low socioeconomic status. Although cancer deaths have declined for both whites and African-Americans living in the United States, African-Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer.
Other examples of the impact of cancer on minorities include:
- African-American males have the highest incidence and mortality rates for colon, prostate and lung cancers.
- Cervical cancer incidence is the highest among Hispanic/Latina women when compared to all other ethnic groups.
- Liver cancer, usually caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus, disproportionately affects Asian-Americans.
- American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to have the poorest survival from “all cancers combined” than any other racial group.
- Poor people are at greater risk of being diagnosed and treated for cancer at late stages of disease.
Research studies, including many performed by University of Michigan investigators such as Lisa Newman, Arden Morris, Christopher Sonnenday and Ken Resnicow, continue to document persistent and significant disparities in access to health care and disease outcomes. Often times, researchers are looking into the impact of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, geography and socioeconomic status on cancer risk, screening or outcomes. The Cancer Center has a health disparities work group that meets quarterly to collaborate, present their work and share research findings.
Learn more about cancer and disparities among minorities
- Paths of Healing
- The Color of Cancer
- Cancer Center in the Community
- U-M Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities
- National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce Health Disparities
Other areas of interest include:
- National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health
- Intercultural Cancer Council