Cancer disparities refer to differences in cancer measures between populations. Although cancer can affect anyone, some groups experience disproportionately negative cancer care.
Cancer disparities may be due to factors such as obstacles in receiving treatment, inherent discrimination, institutional racism and bias, and inherited biological factors.
However, many disparities in healthcare are also more nuanced, complex, and difficult to identify easily.
This article defines cancer disparities, gives examples, and explains what aspects of cancer and cancer care these disparities affect. It also looks at factors that cause disparities and provides support for people with cancer who may be affected by disparities.
Cancer disparities can affect all aspects of cancer care, from screening and prevention processes to treatment and care following treatment.
People who experience cancer disparities may face disadvantages in cancer measures
- lower screening rates
- higher incidence, or new cases, of cancer
- higher prevalence, or existing cases, of cancer
- later cancer diagnosis
- higher financial burdens of cancer
- higher rates of morbidity, or health complications, related to cancer
- higher rates of mortality, or death, from cancer
- lower survival rates, or length of time people survive after diagnosis
There are many examples of cancer disparities in the United States. These disparities affect all aspects of cancer care, including diagnosis, treatment, and outlook.
Examples of cancer disparities in cancer diagnosis in the United States include worse outcomes for people of color than for white people.
According to the American Lung Association, compared with white Americans:
- Black Americans with lung cancer were 15% less likely to receive an early diagnosis.
- Latino Americans were 16% less likely to receive an early diagnosis.
- Pacific Islanders or Asian Americans with lung cancer were 17% less likely to receive an early diagnosis.
- Native Americans or Alaska Natives with lung cancer were 14% less likely to receive an early diagnosis.
There are many examples of cancer disparities in cancer treatment:
- According to the American Cancer Society, around
one-thirdof Black American women reported experiencing racial discrimination during a visit with a healthcare professional.
- A 2017 study found that people in the United States who are uninsured or who have Medicaid or Medicare-Medicaid dual eligible coverage had significantly lower odds of receiving recommended treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, after the diagnosis of certain cancers than people with private insurance.
- According to the American Lung Association, Black Americans with lung cancer were 11% more likely not to receive treatment and 19% less likely to receive surgical treatment than white Americans.
The outlook for cancer tends to be significantly worse for people of color in the United States.
According to the
- Black American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.
- Black American women have the highest mortality rates from cervical cancer.
- Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest mortality rates from kidney cancer.
- Black American men are twice as likely as white men to die of prostate cancer.
According to the
Factors that cause cancer disparities include:
- lack of education
- lack of quality housing
- lack of access to affordable healthcare
- lack of access to healthy, affordable foods
- lack of access to jobs and opportunities with adequate pay
At each stage of cancer, from screening and prevention to care after treatment, some groups of people can face discrimination, which can affect the level of care they receive.
Discrimination can affect various groups of people and may be based on factors such as:
- race and ethnicity
- gender identity
- level of income
- disability status
- level of health insurance coverage
How cancer disparities affect population groups is not always obvious. For example, a
Racism and discrimination can also affect cancer disparities in various ways.
For example, a
Another example is the creation of racially segregated spaces, such as neighborhoods. This has resulted in people being disproportionately affected by environmental cancer risks.
Disparities can also influence behavior, which can increase the risk of cancer in certain populations.
According to the
The following organizations provide resources and support for people who may have been affected by cancer disparities:
- Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC)
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: Health Equity
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health
- American Indian Cancer Foundation
- Native American Cancer Initiatives, Inc.
- Sisters Network Inc.: A National African American Breast Cancer Survivorship Organization
- African American Health Program: Cancer
- Día de la Mujer Latina
- Asian American Cancer Support Network
- National LGBT Cancer Project
American Cancer Society: Programs and resources for cancer-related expenses
- American Childhood Cancer Organization: Financial assistance
Cancer disparities refer to differences in cancer care for certain groups of people due to social, economic, and environmental factors.
Racism, discrimination, poverty, and a lack of access to resources can result in lower levels of cancer care for some groups of people.
Discrimination that leads to cancer disparities can be based on various factors, such as race, gender identity, age, and level of income.
For example, people of color and people in low income households in the United States have a higher incidence of cancer and higher mortality rates from certain types of cancer than white Americans.
Cancer disparities are present at every stage of cancer care, from screening and prevention to care after treatment.
Understanding these disparities can help people seek the right resources to access the care they need and deserve.