Systemic racial disparity among lung cancer diagnoses has nearly vanished, study finds

racial disparities in lung cancer diagnosis and treatment
Credit: Patient Power

Because of deeply-rooted systemic problems, Black Americans tend to experience disproportionate rates of many common illnesses. However, a recent study has found that with thoughtful and rigorous public health programs, it is possible to flatten some of this disparity. Effective education and policy around tobacco use in the Black community has likely been the reason for a notable decrease in smoking rates and subsequent new lung cancer diagnosis compared to whites, experts said.

The recent study, led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, found that rates of new lung cancer diagnoses for Black and white men in the United States are now roughly even. The rates for Black women are lower than those for white women.

“Historically, lung cancer rates have been higher in Black men than white men at all ages,” said Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, Ph.D., a cancer epidemiologist who has been studying the relationship since he was a fellow at the National Cancer Institute in the mid-1990s.

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“Something is working well in the African American community related to tobacco education and policy,” Jemal said.

The study only looked at new lung cancers diagnosed, and not at the differences in mortality in regards to race, [epidemiologist John] Brownstein said. “Equitable access to care and the quality of care being delivered are important in disease outcomes” with respect to racial disparities, he said. “Hopefully future studies will highlight that.”

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