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Breast Cancer Now Leading Cause of Cancer Death in Black Women




Breast cancer has replaced lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related death among Black women, but lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in Black men, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Lung cancer remains the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both Black women and Black men.

These are among the key findings of the report, Cancer Statistics for African American / Black People 2022 ― a triannual compilation of US data on cancer incidence, mortality, survival, screening, and risk factors for Black people and it marks a major shift as of 2019.

“African American / Black people have a disproportionately high cancer burden compared to other population groups. According to the report, the risk of cancer death for Black individuals remains 19% higher for men and 12% higher for women compared to White individuals,” the ACS says in a statement.

“The gap for breast cancer is more alarming,” it adds. “Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women despite a lower risk of being diagnosed with the disease.”

The new report, published online on February 10 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, also notes the following:

  • An estimated 224,080 new cancer cases and 73,680 cancer deaths will occur among Black people in 2022.

  • Over the past 5 data years, Black women had an 8% lower overall cancer incidence than White women but 12% higher mortality; Black men have 6% higher cancer incidence than White men but 19% higher cancer mortality.

  • Prostate cancer mortality among Black men decreased by 1.3% per year from 2015–2019 despite a 5% increase in the diagnosis of distant-stage prostate cancer annually since 2012, but the decline was slower than the 5% per year decline from 2010–2014.

  • The overall cancer mortality gap between Black and White people is narrowing. This is due to a steeper drop in prostate, lung, and other smoking-related cancers among Black people.

  • Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are 21% and 44% higher, respectively, in Black men in comparison with White men and 18% and 31% higher, respectively, in Black women in comparison with White women.

The reasons for the disparities are complex but “largely stem from less access to high-quality care and optimal treatment as a repercussion of long-standing institutional racism,” the report concludes.

“We must address structural racism as a public health issue to close the gaps and advance health equity,” Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at the ACS, commented in the press release.

Sharon Worcester is an award-winning medical journalist at MDedge News, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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