Learn about Health Disparities

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National Minority Cancer Awareness Week (NMCAW)
April 15-21, 2013

Each year, during the third week of April, the nation spotlights the impact of cancer on minority groups. Moffitt Cancer Center also understands that it is important to educate the community about cancer disparities in minority populations – as Moffitt will focus on education, research, policy and advocacy as it works to reduce cancer health disparities. We hope that you will share this information with your congregations and community.

What are cancer health disparities?
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines "cancer health disparities" as "differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of cancer and related adverse health conditions that exist among specific populations groups in the United States." In other words, some groups are diagnosed and/or die of certain diseases more often than others.

Why is this issue important?
There are many differences in the rate that people develop or die from diseases, the ways in which diseases grow and progress; the way diseases impact patients, the kind of access to and quality of cancer treatment and patients survival rates. According to the NCI, cancer is more likely to impact the poor, and racial/ethnic minorities and those without health insurance than the general population. When compared to most non-minority groups, many racial/ethnic minorities are diagnosed with cancer more often. Many racial/ethnic minorities also have worse survival rates than non-minority groups. While these differences are often talked about in terms of race and ethnicity, physical, natural and social environmental factors, genetic factors, and certain unhealthy habits must not be ignored, as they may also be the root cause(s) for these differences.

A Few Examples of Cancer Health Disparities

Primary sources: NCI – Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, American Cancer Society, The Office of Minority Health, The National Center for Reducing Asian American Cancer Health Disparities


African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest sur¬vival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers. The causes of these inequalities are complex and are thought to reflect social and economic disparities more than biologic dif¬ferences associated with race. These include inequities in work, wealth, income, education, housing and overall standard of liv¬ing, as well as barriers to high-quality cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment services. Although the overall racial disparity in cancer death rates is decreasing, in 2009, the death rate for all cancers combined continued to be 31% higher in African American men and 15% higher in African American women than in white men and women, respectively.
African American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than White men. African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages.

Source: ACS, Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans, 2013-2014


Although Hispanics have lower incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic whites for the most common cancers, they are more likely to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of disease. In the US, stomach cancer incidence rates are at least 70% higher in Hispanic men than in non-Hispanic white men. The cervical cancer incidence rate among Hispanic women is almost 64% higher than that in non-Hispanic whites.

Source: ACS, Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos, 2012-2014

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • From 2005-2009, American Indian/Alaska Native men were twice as likely to have liver & IBD cancer as non-Hispanic White men.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native men are 1.6 times as likely to have stomach cancer as non-Hispanic White men, and are over twice as likely to die from the same disease.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native women are 2.8 times more likely to have, and almost twice as likely to die from, liver & IBD cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic White women.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native women are 40% more likely to have kidney/renal pelvis cancer as non-Hispanic White women.

Source: The Office of Minority Health

Asian-American and Pacific Islanders

Asian Americans generally have lower cancer rates than the non-Hispanic white population. However, disparities still exist in certain types of cancer.

  • Asian/Pacific Islander men are 40% less likely to have prostate cancer as white men, but they are twice as likely to have stomach cancer.
  • Although Asian/Pacific Islander women are 20% less likely to have breast cancer as white women, they are almost three times as likely to have stomach cancer.
  • Both Asian/Pacific Islander men and women have almost three times the incidence of liver & IBD cancer as the non-Hispanic white population.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander men are twice as likely to die from stomach cancer as compared to the non-Hispanic white population, and Asian/Pacific Islander women are 2.7 times as likely to die from the same disease.

Source: The Office of Minority Health

Did you know?

  • “Screenings” are tests that can help to find cancer early.
  • Early cancer may not show signs at first, so getting regular screening tests is important.
  • Medical care for early cancer can be very effective and saves lives.
  • Many insurance plans help pay for cancer screenings.
  • Many health organizations in your community give free or low cost cancer screening tests for those who qualify.

What can you do?

  • Talk to your doctor and request cancer screening tests appropriate for your age and risk level.
  • Call your health department, cancer center or hospital, American Cancer Society or National Cancer Institute to check about cancer screening programs in your area.
  • Know your family history of cancer so you can make healthy choices, get screened regularly and find cancer early.
  • Tell your friends and family about cancer so they too can do the same thing.
  • Get involved in programs that work to stop health disparities.
  • Visit the websites or call the toll-free numbers given below and learn more about cancer health disparities and what you can do.


American Cancer Society
Website: www.cancer.org  
Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (or 1-866-228-4327 for TTY)

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Cancer Answers
Phone: 1-888-MOFFITT (Available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday)

National Cancer Institute
Website: www.cancer.gov  
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER

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