From 1999 to 2019, rates of cancer deaths declined steadily among Black people in the United States. Nevertheless, in 2019, Black people still had considerably higher rates of cancer death than people in other racial and ethnic groups, a large epidemiologic study has found. The study was led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and reported in JAMA Oncology.1
“Even though there has been a decline in cancer mortality nationally among Black people, they continued to bear a higher cancer burden overall than all other racial and ethnic groups studied,” said Wayne R. Lawrence, DrPH, of the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who led the study.
Wayne R. Lawrence, DrPH
Dr. Lawrence and his colleagues used death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics to analyze age-adjusted cancer death rates by age, sex, and cancer site. Between 1999 and 2019, more than 1 million Black men and women ages 20 and older died of cancer. During that period, cancer death rates among this group decreased by 2% per year, with a more rapid decrease among men than women.
Death rates declined for most cancer types; the most rapid decreases were in lung cancer among men (3.8% per year) and stomach cancer among women (3.4% per year). However, over the same 20-year period, deaths from liver cancer increased among older Black men and women and deaths from uterine cancer increased among Black women.
In their comparison of cancer death rates among racial and ethnic groups in 2019, the researchers found that Black men and women had higher rates of cancer death, both overall and for most cancer types, than White, Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino men and women.
Dr. Lawrence noted that the disparity in deaths likely reflects systemic and preventable barriers to getting quality care. Whether it’s screening for cancer, timely diagnosis, or the receipt of proven treatments, he explained, “Black individuals continue to have a delay in care or receive poorer care than their White counterparts.”
DISCLOSURE: The authors reported no conflicts of interest.
1. Lawrence WR, McGee-Avila JK, Vo JB, et al: Trends in cancer mortality among black individuals in the US from 1999 to 2019. JAMA Oncol. May 19, 2022 (early release online).