Inaugural AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report Released

Highlights Include Progress Against Cancer and Factors Contributing to Health Inequities in Minority Populations

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The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) released its inaugural Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2020, which found that while overall cancer death rates are declining and the number of survivors is reaching record highs, progress against cancer is not benefiting everyone equally, with racial and ethnic minorities shouldering a disproportionate burden of cancer.

According to the report, African Americans have had the highest overall cancer death rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States for more than 4 decades—the result of complex factors, many of which are directly influenced by structural and systemic racism. Achieving oncology workforce diversity and developing science-based public policies that advance cancer prevention and early detection strategies will help overcome cancer health disparities.

John D. Carpten, PhD

John D. Carpten, PhD

In a statement commenting on the development of the Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2020, John D. Carpten, PhD, Chair of both the report and the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research Council, and Professor and Chair of Translational Genomics and Director of the Institute of Translational Genomics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, said:

This inaugural and historic progress report will provide the world with a comprehensive baseline understanding of our progress toward recognizing and eliminating cancer health disparities from the standpoint of biologic factors, clinical management, population science, public policy, and workforce diversity. This monumental report represents the collective effort of a number of the world’s foremost thought leaders in cancer health disparities research. It highlights progress, but it also initiates a vitally important call to action for all stakeholders to make advances toward the mitigation of cancer disparities for racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations.

Highlights of the Report

Highlights from the report’s findings include:

  • Despite great progress against cancer in the United States, it is projected that 1,806,590 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year and that 606,520 people will die from the disease.
  • Differences in the overall cancer death rate among racial and ethnic groups are less pronounced now than they have ever been. In 1990, the overall cancer death rate for Black patients was 33% higher than the overall cancer death rate for White patients; by 2016, it was 14% higher.
  • Recent studies show that racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes for some cancer types could be eliminated if all patients had equal access to standard treatment.
  • Several studies and initiatives designed to address gaps in knowledge about cancer biology in diverse populations are underway, including the AACR Project Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange (GENIE) and the National Cancer Institute–funded African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk (AMBER) Consortium.
  • Over the past 2 decades, diversity-focused training and career development programs have enhanced racial and ethnic diversity in cancer training.

A Call to Action

To help improve health equity for all patients with cancer, the AACR report calls on policymakers and all stakeholders to eradicate social injustices that are barriers to that goal, including:

  • Providing robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases to the federal agencies and programs that are tasked with reducing cancer health disparities
  • Implementing steps to ensure that clinical trials include a diverse population of participants
  • Supporting programs to make sure that the health-care workforce reflects and appreciates the diverse communities it serves
  • Prioritizing cancer control initiatives
  • Working with members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, comprising the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to pass the provisions included in the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020.

“These efforts must be coupled with action to eradicate the social injustices that are barriers to health equity, which is one of our most basic human rights. This is why the AACR stands in solidarity in the fight against racism, privilege, and discrimination in all aspects of life and actively supports policies that guarantee equitable access to quality health care to eradicate all barriers to achieving the bold vision of health equity,” concluded the report.

To read the full report, visit