By Nicole Ostrow
Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) –- The number of black men dying of
cancer dropped the most in the last two decades although their
rates of death from the disease remain the highest among all
U.S. ethnicities, according to a report.
As cancer deaths continued their 20-year decline in the
U.S., rates among black men fell about 50 percent during the
period, according to the American Cancer Society. Still, the
death rates among black men were 27 percent higher that of white
men and double that of Asian Americans, the report said.
Cancer causes 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S., according to the
paper. Since 1991, the number of deaths from the disease has
dropped 20 percent, representing about 1.34 million fewer cancer
deaths. While the decline in cancer deaths among blacks has been
more rapid, gaps exist in access to care that may be responsible
for the higher numbers, the report’s authors said.
“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we
hope to see improvements in disparities in cancer survival and
other cancer outcomes between blacks and whites,” Ahmedin
Jemal, vice president of surveillance and health services
research at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said in a
telephone interview. “We have to apply what we know in cancer
prevention and control to all segments of the population. We
also need to invest more in discovery across all segments of the
cancer continuum from prevention to early detection and
President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, is the biggest overhaul
of the U.S. health-care system since the 1960s. It is expected
to insure millions of Americans who previously couldn’t afford
health coverage, many of them minorities.
This year about 1.67 million Americans will be diagnosed
with cancer in the U.S. and 585,720 people will die from it, the
authors estimated. The average cancer death rate for black men
from 2006 to 2010 was 276.6 per 100,000 compared with 217.3 for
non-Hispanic white men and 132.4 for Asians/Pacific Islanders.
For black women, their rate of dying from cancer was 171.2
per 100,000 compared with 153.6 for white women and 92.1 for
Asians/Pacific Islanders. Black men more often than all other
ethnic groups are diagnosed with and die from cancers of the
colon, lung, prostate and stomach, the report found. They also
are diagnosed at later stages of their disease than their white
counterparts, Jemal said. These patients also receive fewer
treatments and undergo fewer prevention screenings for things
like colon cancer because of a lack of access to care.
Black women die more from all cancers than other women,
including breast cancer even though white women have the highest
rate of the disease. They are also more often diagnosed with and
die from colon cancer, the report showed.
Cancer death rates among black men declined at a faster
rate than white men because fewer black men have started smoking
in the last 30 years, lowering their rates of cancers of the
lung, oral cavity, esophagus and larynx, Jemal said.
“The progress we are seeing is good, even remarkable, but
we can and must do even better,” said John Seffrin, chief
executive officer of the American Cancer Society, in a
statement. “The halving of the risk of cancer death among
middle-aged black men in just two decades is extraordinary, but
it is immediately tempered by the knowledge that death rates are
still higher among black men than white men for nearly every
major cancer and for all cancers combined.”
The American Cancer Society estimates the number of new
cancer cases and deaths in the U.S. each year using data through
2010, the latest year available, from the National Cancer
Institute, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and the National Center for Health Statistics.
The three most common cancers this year for women will be
cancers of the breast, lung and colon, while for men it will be
the disease of the prostate, lung and colon. Breast cancer will
account for 29 percent of all new cancers in women, while
prostate cancer will account for about 27 percent of all cancers
The combined cancer death rate for men and women was 171.8
per 100,000 people in 2010 compared with a peak of 215.1 per
100,000 in 1991, the authors said.
Jemal said better prevention and treatment, improved early
detection and fewer smokers are helping to drive down cancer
death rates. More early detection is needed for cancers beyond
those of the breast, cervix and colon.
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--Editors: Angela Zimm, Andrew Pollack
To contact the reporter on this story:
Nicole Ostrow in New York at +1-212-318-2000 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reg Gale at +1-212-617-2563 or