Underserved US minorities face 'unequal burden of cancer' that must be corrected

Barriers to healthy lifestyles, early detection services and good medical care are contributing to higher cancer incidence and mortality rates for African Americans and other medically underserved minorities in this country, when compared with white U.S. citizens.

As a result, the War on Cancer declared about three decades ago by President Nixon -- cannot be won until this "unequal burden of cancer" is corrected, according to reports by a panel of cancer clinicians and public health officials in the March issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

"In our efforts to reduce disparities, we must identify and remove all of the barriers that prevent the benefits of research from reaching all of the people," wrote Harold P. Freeman, M.D., director of the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in New York City and director of the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities at the National Cancer Institute.

"These barriers are a major cause of health disparities," he added. "This is a national issue, a policy issue." Added Frederick P. Li, M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston who assembled the panel for an October 2001: "The burden of cancer is not equally distributed within the U.S. population, but differs by race, ethnicity and, other demographic characteristics."

"Clearly, it is essential that we address this disparity and work to ensure that all Americans have equal access and quality cancer care."

Statistics tell part of the story, particularly for African Americans:

African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from cancer than white Americans. In 2003, an estimated 132,700 new cancers will be diagnosed among African Americans and 63,100 deaths will be recorded. In 1992-1999, overall age-adjusted U.S. incidence rates for all cancers combined (per 1 million population) were 527 for African Americans and 480 fo

Contact: Warren Froelich
American Association for Cancer Research

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