Cancer Death Rates Among Black People Decline but Remain Higher Than Other Groups
Rates of cancer deaths declined steadily among Black people in the U.S. from 1999 to 2019, but Black people still had considerably higher rates of cancer death than people in other racial and ethnic groups.
The findings, based on a large epidemiologic study led by NCI researchers, appeared in JAMA Oncology.
“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 Dr. Wayne R. Lawrence, a postdoctoral fellow in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who led the study.
Lawrence and his colleagues used death certificate data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics to analyze age-adjusted cancer death rates by age, sex and cancer site among non-Hispanic Black people ages 20 and older in the U.S. They then compared cancer death rates in 2019 among Black men and women with those in other racial and ethnic groups.
In that 20-year period, more than 1 million Black men and women ages 20 and older died of cancer. Among this group, cancer death rates decreased by 2 percent 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 and stomach cancer among women. 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.
Lawrence noted these overall declines could be due to some combination of improved access to screening, earlier detection, advances in treatment and behavioral changes, such as declines in cigarette smoking.
However, the researchers found that Black men and women had higher rates of cancer death, overall and for most cancer types, than White, Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino men and women.
“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,” said Lawrence.