African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers.  Although the overall racial disparity in cancer death rates is decreasing, in 2007 the death rate for all cancers combined continued to be 32% higher in African American men and 16% higher in African American women than in white men and women, respectively.  About 94,540 cancer cases in men and 82,080 cases in women were expected to be newly diagnosed among African Americans in 2013.

Most Common Cancer among Black Men

  • Prostate (40%)
  • Lung (15%)
  • Colon and Rectum (9%

Most Common Cancer among Black Women

  • Breast (34%)
  • Lung (13%)
  • Colorectum (11%)

Lifetime Probability (%) of Developing or Dying from Invasive Cancers by Race and Sex, US, 2007-2009

  • Men: 1 out of 2 men will develop Cancer. 1 out of 4 will die from cancer.
  • Women: 1 out of 3 women will develop Cancer. 1 out of 5 will die from cancer

 Risk Factor

  • Socioeconomic Status

    Socioeconomic status (SES) is highly correlated with cancer risk and outcomes across the continuum from prevention to palliative care. Persons with lower SES are more likely to engage in behaviors that increase cancer risk, such as tobacco use and physical inactivity, in part because of marketing strategies that target these populations and in part because of environmental and community factors, such as fewer opportunities for physical activity and less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Lower SES is also associated with financial, structural, and personal barriers to health care, including lack of or inadequate health insurance, reduced access to recommended preventive care and treatment services, and lower literacy levels. Individuals with no health insurance and those with Medicaid insurance are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer.  These factors disproportionately affect African Americans because 20% of African Americans are uninsured.

  • Tobacco Use

    Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the US and is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths.  Smoking is associated with increased risk of at least 16 types of cancer: nasopharynx, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses, lip, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, ovary (mucinous), kidney, bladder, stomach, colorectum, and acute myeloid leukemia.  Both incidence and death rates for lung cancer are higher among African American men

  • Overwieght, Obeisty & Physical Activity

    It has been estimated that 14% to 20% of all cancer deaths in the US can be attributed to overweight and obesity.108 Increasing evidence also suggests that being overweight increases the risk for cancer recurrence and decreases the likelihood of survival for several cancers.
    One-half of all African American adults are considered obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2), and 77% of African American adults are considered overweight (BMI ≥25.0 kg/m2) . Among youth, 24% of African Americans ages 2 to 19 are obese

  • Nutrition & Diet

    Being active is thought to reduce cancer risk largely by improving energy metabolism and reducing circulating concentrations of estrogen, insulin, and insulin-like growth factors. Physical activity also improves the quality of life of cancer patients and is associated with a reduction in the risk of cancer recurrences and improved overall mortality in multiple cancer survivor groups, including breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer.

    Studies have shown that individuals who eat more processed and red meat, potatoes, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages and foods are at a higher risk of developing or dying from a variety of cancers. Alternatively, adhering to a diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish or poultry and fewer red and processed meats is associated with lower risk.


Early Detection is Important:

African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of disease when treatment choices are more limited and less effective.


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All information has been provided by © 2014 American Cancer Society, Inc.
The American Cancer Society reserves the right to all information listed.
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