Study: Black Americans at Higher Risk for Cancer-Related Deaths

There is new research that says Black Americans diagnosed with cancer for the second time are more likely to die than their white peers.


The new new study by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that Black patients who have been diagnosed with a second primary cancer have a 21 percent  higher cancer-related death rate than their white counterparts. 

Researchers suggest that the disparities in the Black community can be attributed, in part, due to receiving a later diagnosis, particularly, for breast cancer, uterine cancer and melanoma, lead author Hyuna Sung said in a news release.

“The findings highlight research priorities to address survival disparities among the growing population of multiple primary cancer survivors,” she said.

For the study, researchers used data from 18 U.S. health registries that included adults diagnosed with common second primary cancers, representing more than 8 in 10 adult-onset cases. Among the more than 230,000 people with second primary cancers, more than 109,000 died of cancer and more than 18,000 of heart-related causes during a median 54 months of follow-up. 

Investigators looked at 13 types of second primary cancers. They found that when compared with white individuals, Black people had a higher risk of cancer death for 10 second primary cancer types. The widest gap was seen for survivors of second uterine cancers and for seven second primary cancer types among Hispanic people, notably melanoma.

After examining the data, researchers concluded that the results highlight opportunities to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in survival rates.

“Persons with multiple primary cancers may face unique challenges such as limited treatment options, multiple chronic [illnesses], complexity in navigating health care systems, and exacerbated financial hardship,” Sung said. “Issues of financial hardship may be particularly relevant.”

Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the organization continues to push for health disparities to be addressed. The network is working to increase federal and state funding for early detection of breast and cervical cancer, passage of federal prostate cancer screening legislation and advancement of proven tobacco control measures.

The efforts by the network include pushing for an increase in the overall access to testing; expanding Medicaid coverage in the 10 remaining states that have not yet adopted expansion; supporting states to increase the reach of breast and cervical early detection programs; and attempting to remove financial barriers to prostate, breast and cervical cancer screening for high-risk people.

“Ending cancer as we know it requires public health interventions that ensure everyone has equitable access to quality, affordable and timely access to prevention and early detection,” Lacasse said in a news release.

When considering the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Black community has a disproportionate cancer burden, including the highest mortality and the lowest survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimates the number of new cancer cases and deaths for Black people in the United States and considers the most recent data on cancer mortality, survival, screening, and risk factors using population-based data from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The society found that, in 2022, approximately 224,000 new cancer cases existed resulting in about 73,000 cancer deaths among Black people in the United States.



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