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Special Population: Black/African Americans and Cancer Rates

By Tara Tisane

Blacks/African Americans do have a high death rate and shorter survival of any racial/ethnic group in the US. The American Cancer Society is combating this disparity by raising awareness within the Black community while providing prevention and early detection programs and information.

Among the cancers that are significantly higher in the Black community is Colorectal cancer. "Death rates have remained about 50% higher in Black men than White men since 2005."

Even though the Colorectal Cancer (CRC) deaths have been going down, it is still high. One of the reasons for CRC to be more prevalent in the Black/African American men is the screening process. The slower uptake for Black men to be screened keeps the deaths higher. In addition, access to high-quality treatment is not readily available.

Another cancer that has a high rate within the Black/African-American community is a specific type of Melanoma called "Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM). This cancer is the most common Melanoma among non-Hispanic Blacks.

ALM is usually diagnosed in the later stages. This cancer is not located in prominent places; most people look for skin cancer to be. ALM is found on palms of hands, soles of feet, or under the nails. "Even though non-Hispanic Blacks and whites were diagnosed with ALM, the proportion was much higher in blacks, 46% compared to 2%."

Ref: "Black refers to people having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa, including immigrants from the Caribbean, and South and Latin America. African American is a term often used for Americans of African descent with ancestry in North America. Individuals may self-identify as either, both, or choose another identity altogether. This fact sheet uses African American unless referencing surveillance data. "


Ref: "About 202,260 new cancer cases and 73,030 cancer deaths are expected to occur among blacks* in 2019. African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers."


Ref: 'The Cancer Burden in African Americans: Our Experts Take' by American Cancer Society epidemiologist Carol DeSantis, February 22, 2016.

Ref: 'Study: Lack of Education About Melanoma May Contribute to Black-white Survival Disparities' by MaryBeth B. Culp, MPH, from the American Cancer Society and Natasha Buchanan Lunsford, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control, July 23, 2019.

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