The CDC reports that more than one third of the US population belongs to a racial or ethnic group. While cancer affects all races and ethnicities, some groups are at higher risks for certain cancers than other groups. The risk factors for getting cancer include genetics, lifestyle habits, certain bacterial and viral infections, and environmental exposure to cancer-causing substances. The number of deaths from cancer is often worse in minority groups due to the diagnosis of cancer in advanced stages.
There are many reasons why people in certain minority populations don’t get earlier entry to cancer care like screening exams and therefore have poorer results. The differences and gaps in services and outcomes between groups is known as health disparities. Factors that delay access to services are called barriers. Barriers vary from person to person and group to group. They include: lack of or insufficient health insurance; financial limitations; no regular healthcare provider; limited access to healthcare specialists and screening exams; transportation problems; non-English speaking; cultural beliefs; misconceptions such as believing that you should only go to the doctor when you feel ill; low understanding and awareness of cancer risk, prevention and detection; fear of diagnosis and treatment effects; and trust issues with healthcare professionals.
Here are some facts about Cancer in Minority Populations
- According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers. African American men have the highest incidence of cancer of any group.
- The American Cancer Society reports the most commonly diagnosed cancers among black men are prostate (31% of all cancers), lung (15%), and colon and rectum (9%). Among black women, the most common cancers are breast (32% of all cancers), lung (11%), and colon and rectum (9%).
- According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, African-American men are 73% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men, and are nearly 2.4 times as likely to die from the disease.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed slightly less among African-American women but the cancer mortality is higher than in other groups.
- African Americans are diagnosed with some cancers at an earlier age than other groups. Screening tests for prostate and colorectal cancers are recommended at age 45 by many medical organizations.
American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN)
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have a higher incidence of stomach cancer diagnosis and death, especially in the Alaskan population possibly due to their diet of salted, smoked and pickled foods.
- Liver cancer, kidney cancer and colorectal cancer incidence and deaths are higher in AI/AN people than in white people.
- American Indians and Alaska Natives have the poorest 5-year survival rates among all racial and ethnic groups.
- Read American Indian Cancer Burden: Cancer Facts for American Indians and Alaska Natives for more complete information on cancer risk in the different regions.
- Ashkenazic Jews are at increased risk of breast cancer for men and women and ovarian cancer due to the hereditary BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
- Ashkenazic Jews are also at higher risk for colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- The CDC states that cancer is the number one cause of death for Asian and Pacific Islander populations.
- According to The National Center for Reducing Asian American Cancer Health Disparities, Asian Americans experience proportionally higher rates of cancers from infectious origin, such as liver cancer and stomach cancer.
- They also report that among Asian Americans, colorectal cancer is the second most common diagnosed cancer, and it is the third highest cause of cancer-related deaths.
- For information about specific Asian ethnicities go to The Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART).
- Cancer is the number one cause of death in Hispanics.
- Hispanics have a higher risk for cancers associated with infectious agents, such as liver, stomach, and cervix. Hispanic women have the highest rate of cervical cancer.
- Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in Hispanic men and the third most common cancer diagnosed in Hispanic women. It is the third cause of death in both Hispanic men and women.
- Rates for testicular cancer are rising in young Hispanic men.
American Cancer Society Cancer Statistics Center
American Indian Cancer Foundation
CDC: Health Equity
National Cancer Institute
US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health