Overall, cancer rates are higher among Black people than non-Black people, especially for prostate and breast cancer. Racial disparities in the awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer can have a devastating effect on individuals and their families.
In addition to noting the above, the
Black males are
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
As with most racial disparities, various factors play a role. These
Keep reading to learn more about racial disparities in cancer, which cancers are most prevalent in African American people, and how individuals can seek an early diagnosis.
Some important facts about cancer in African American people include:
- Prostate cancer accounted for
one-thirdof new cancers among Black males in 2016. Lung and colon cancers made up one-quarter.
- Black females are
nearly twice as likelyto die of endometrial cancer than white females.
- In 2016, the
most commoncancers among Black females were breast, lung, and colorectal cancers.
- Black people have higher death rates from cancer than any other group.
- Black people are
less likelyto develop melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer. However, when they do, they are more likely to die. Delayed diagnosis contributes to this higher death rate.
- In 2019, 11.4% of Black people under the age of 65 years did not have health insurance. The figure for white people was 7.8%.
Numerous factors contribute to racial disparities in cancer.
Racism in medicine
Racial disparities in healthcare are common. For instance,
Doctors may also take Black people’s statements about their pain or symptoms less seriously. A
Racist biases may mean that many doctors are less knowledgeable about Black health.
Although Black people are
A long history of racism in medicine means that some individuals might
In the United States, Black people have higher rates of poverty than Asian, Hispanic, and white individuals. This leaves many people socioeconomically vulnerable and, in many cases, without health insurance.
A lack of access to either quality healthcare, insurance that fully pays for treatment, or time off work to see a doctor
Underlying health problems
Black individuals may be more likely than white people to have or develop certain health conditions other than cancer.
For example, Black males are
However, this claim remains controversial because race is a social construct, rather than a biological one. This means that genes are distributed across racial groups, so it is not possible to draw genetic conclusions based on race alone.
Certain cancers are more prevalent in Black individuals.
Common cancers in Black females
- breast cancer: 32%
- lung cancer: 12%
- colorectal cancer: 10%
- uterine cancer: 7%
Common cancers in Black males
- prostate cancer: 34%
- lung cancer: 14%
- colorectal cancer: 10%
- kidney cancer: 5%
Cancer causes abnormal cells to grow out of control. The longer this growth continues unchecked, the more it can damage a person’s body. Later stage cancers are usually harder to treat, and they are associated with worse outcomes.
However, an early cancer diagnosis generally
For many types of cancer, though, Black people face diagnosis delays.
For example, doctors
This suggests that diagnosis delays, rather than prevalence, play a role in breast cancer death disparities.
Living with cancer is challenging for anyone. However, support is particularly critical when a person faces institutional racism, the health effects of years of discrimination, doctors who may not be familiar with Black health, and a higher risk of death.
Support groups can help people in numerous ways, including:
- recommending culturally competent doctors
- offering strategies for managing symptoms
- providing a sounding board and compassion
- supporting people to advocate for themselves
- cultivating strategies to deal with ineffective healthcare professionals or health systems
Local advocacy and civil rights groups may have their own cancer support groups, which individuals can contact for help. Some other support options include:
Black people with cancer face a number of obstacles, including racism in medicine and a healthcare system that treats white bodies as the default. These obstacles, along with different cancer patterns and diagnosis rates, claim thousands of lives each year.
Talking with friends or family members can help a person find a doctor who understands and cares about Black people with cancer. People can also speak up if they feel as though they are experiencing racism in a medical setting, and they can ask for a second opinion.
While individual strategies can save lives, the healthcare system must ultimately work to correct racial disparities and eliminate harmful biases.