Next week in the United States is designated as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. While cancer affects men and women of every age, race, ethnic background, and economic class, the disease has a disproportionately severe impact on minorities and the economically disadvantaged. National Minority Cancer Awareness Week promotes increased awareness of prevention and treatment among those segments of the populations that are at greater risk of developing cancer. The week’s emphasis gives clinicians, healthcare professionals, and researchers an opportunity to focus on high-risk populations and to develop creative approaches to battling cancer problems unique to these communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that cancer death rates for women are highest among African Americans, followed by Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. Cancer is the leading cause of death for female Asian Americans since 1980. Colon cancer continues to kill more African Americans than Caucasians for reasons that are not completely understood. According to the Intercultural Cancer Council, this is due in large part to delayed diagnosis coupled with less than appropriate patient care. In addition, individuals of all ethnic backgrounds who are poor, lack health insurance, or otherwise have inadequate access to quality cancer treatment experience higher cancer incidence, higher mortality rates, and lower survival rates. As a result, members of these populations may put off the expense of seeing a doctor until they are very sick and are diagnosed at a later stage, and thus have a poorer chance of survival.
Key Statistics about Cancer in Minorities from the American Cancer Society:
- African-Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival following diagnosis of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers.
- It is estimated that about 169,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed among African-Americans by year’s end. Approximately 66,000 African-Americans will die from cancer.
- The most commonly diagnosed cancers among African-American men are prostate, lung and colorectal.
- Among African-American women, the most common cancers are breast, lung and colorectal. • Nearly 99,000 new cancer cases in Hispanic men and women were diagnosed in 2009. Among Hispanics, there were 29,000 cancer deaths.
- Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Hispanic men, while lung cancer accounts for the largest percentage of deaths in that group.
- Breast cancer is both the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.
- Among Asian Indian and Pakistani women, breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death. (National Cancer Institute)