State of Emergency: Eliminating Cancer Disparities

Today is Day 5 of #BlackInCancer Week and we are #SpreadingtheWord about cancers that disproportionately burden the Black community.

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Today, Black in Cancer Week will focus on #SpreadingtheWord about cancer disparities. We will discuss cancers that disproportionately burden Black people in the United States (U.S.) and why increasing diversity in cancer training will contribute towards advancing cancer health equity. Topics covered will include early detection, risk, treatment, quality of life, and mortality. The day will also include two panel discussions on cancer disparities in the Black community and the translation of research findings to real-world applications. Our goal for the day is to foster conversation on social inequalities in cancer and eliminating cancer disparities.

In the U.S., Black individuals have greater incidence and/or mortality rates for most common types of cancer (e.g. breast, colorectal, prostate) compared to other racial groups. For instance, non-Hispanic Black men have greater prostate cancer incidence and mortality compared to other racial and ethnic groups.1 Among Black women, breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at later stages and greater likelihood of being triple negative.2,3 Additionally, stomach cancer and multiple myeloma mortality are both greater among non-Hispanic Black than non-Hispanic White individuals. Though social, behavioral, environmental, and economic factors, among others, are major contributors to cancer disparities, studies have also documented that in the U.S., Black people are less likely to receive access to new cutting-edge treatments.4–6 Further, most racial and ethnic minority communities that bear a disproportionate cancer burden are also underrepresented in the biomedical and health workforces.7 Continuing Tuesday’s #ProliferatingthePipeline conversation, we will discuss how increasing workforce diversity will contribute towards developing more informed treatments and interventions aimed at resolving disparities in cancer burden.

These topics and more will be discussed on twitter (@BlackinCancer) and in our live panel discussions. The first panel will include Dr. Erica Warner of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Justin Moore of Augusta University. Both Dr. Warner and Dr. Moore are epidemiologists that investigate risk factors contributing to racial disparities in cancer including behavioral, lifestyle, and social policies. The second panel on cancer disparities will include early-career scientists, where the conversation will focus more on barriers Black students encounter navigating academia, the importance of mentorship, and how their work aims to address racial disparities in cancer.

Despite decades of research on cancer disparities, marginalized and economically disadvantaged groups continue to be disproportionately burdened by cancer. We aim to foster discussion and collaboration between government, academia (trainees and senior researchers),  and industry, with the goal of eliminating cancer disparities.

References 

  1. DeSantis CE, Miller KD, Goding Sauer A, Jemal A, Siegel RL. Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2019. CA Cancer J Clin. 2019;69(3):211-233. doi:10.3322/caac.21555
  2. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Breast Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Published 2019. Accessed October 15, 2019. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html
  3. American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer. American Cancer Society. Published 2014. Accessed November 4, 2015. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-risk-factors
  4. Fiala MA, Wildes TM. Racial disparities in treatment use for multiple myeloma. Cancer. 2017;123(9):1590-1596. doi:10.1002/cncr.30526
  5. Thornton JG, Morris AM, Thornton JD, Flowers CR, McCashland TM. Racial variation in colorectal polyp and tumor location. J Natl Med Assoc. 2007;99(7):723-728. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17668638
  6. Lai Y, Wang C, Civan JM, et al. Effects of Cancer Stage and Treatment Differences on Racial Disparities in Survival From Colon Cancer: A United States Population-Based Study. Gastroenterology. 2016;150(5):1135-1146. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2016.01.030
  7. American Association for Cancer Research. AACR CANCER DISPARITIES PROGRESS REPORT 2020.; 2020.

Wayne Lawrence

Postdoctoral Fellow, National Institutes of Health

Wayne Lawrence is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Lawrence earned his doctorate from the State University of New York at Albany School of Public Health. His research is devoted chiefly, but not exclusively, to the field of cancer epidemiology with an emphasis on minority and economically disadvantaged populations. Dr. Lawrence’s research integrates epidemiological, biological, environmental, and behavioral approaches to better understand cancer disparities across the continuum of care. (NOTE: The opinions expressed by Wayne Lawrence is his own. Materials authored by Wayne Lawrence should NOT be interpreted as representing the official viewpoint of his former and current institutions.)

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