Good News, Bad News on Black Americans and Cancer


A new report on how Black Americans are faring against cancer offers up a decidedly mixed picture.

The risk that a Black man or woman in America will die from cancer has steadily declined over the last two decades, the newly published research found.

Unfortunately, that risk still remains higher for Black Americans than for other racial and ethnic groups, the research also showed.

How are Blacks faring against cancer?

“We found that from 1999 to 2019, rates of cancer deaths declined steadily among Black people in the United States by 2% per year, with a more rapid decrease among men (2.6% per year) than women (1.5% per year),” says study lead author Wayne Lawrence, a cancer prevention fellow at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

“Nevertheless, in 2019, Black men and women still had considerably higher rates of cancer death than people in other racial and ethnic groups,” he adds.

The conclusions stem from an analysis of death data for Black individuals and other ethnic/racial groups gathered by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. The data included people aged 20 and older.

During the two-decade study period, more than 1.3 million Black men and women died of cancer, the data showed.

Still, cancer death rates among this group dropped 2% each year.

And death rates due to lung cancer dropped the most among men — 3.8% per year. Among women, the steepest drop was in stomach cancer, with death rates falling 3.4% annually, the investigators found.

But not all the trends were heading in the right direction. During the study period, liver cancer death rates rose among Black seniors. And the risk of dying from uterine cancer also rose among Black women.

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What’s driving the decline in overall death rates?

As to what’s driving the largely positive numbers, Lawrence says that the steady decline in overall cancer death rates among Black individuals likely owes to