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Getting Insured Could Reduce Cancer-Related Deaths Among Minorities

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
A new report released by the American Cancer Society indicates that while the cancer-related death rate was higher among blacks than in whites in 2014, the racial gap could reduce as minority patients increasingly gain access to insurance and subsequent healthcare.
A new report released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) indicates that while the cancer-related death rate was higher among blacks than in whites in 2014, the racial gap could reduce as minority patients increasingly gain access to insurance and subsequent healthcare. The claim is based on the fact that the number of uninsured black Americans reduced by 50% between 2010 (21%) and 2015 (11%). A similar trend was noted among Hispanic Americans—a decrease from 31% to 16%.

ACS collected incidence and mortality data from 1930 to 2014 from the National Center for Health Statistics. Long-term cancer incidence data is collected by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and by CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries. Long-term incidence and survival trends were based on data from 9 SEER areas that represent 9% of the US population, while 18 SEER registries were used to gather data on the lifetime risk of developing cancer, stage, distribution, and survival by stage, as well as data on children and young adults, which covered 28% of the population.  

The report projects a daily diagnosis of 4600 new cancer cases in 2017, which would lead to 1,688,780 new cases of cancer in 2017; this number includes 63,410 cases of breast carcinoma in situ among female patients and 74,680 cases of melanoma in situ. More women (852,630) are estimated to be diagnosed with cancer this year than men (836,150). However, mortality is estimated to be higher among men than women. Of the nearly 601,000 cancer-related deaths in the coming year, 318,420 deaths would be among men diagnosed with cancer, while 282,500 among women.

More men than women are expected to be diagnosed with specific cancer types in 2017, and the trend holds across the various cancers. However, with more than 250,000 women expected to be newly diagnosed with breast cancer, women surpass men in the overall count. As for the death rate, the report states that cancers of the genital system and endocrine system will see more death among women than men—all other cancer types are predicted to result in more male deaths.

Among the states, California and Florida lead the tally on new cases in 2017, with both states expected to have a high rate of female breast cancer incidence. Florida also has a high projected rate of new lung and bronchial cancers. Cancers of the lung and bronchus, colorectum, and prostate in men and lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectum in women will be the most common causes of cancer deaths in the country in 2017.

The report notes an overall upward trend in the 5-year survival rate over the past 30 years–survival has increased by 20 percentage points among whites and 24 percentage points among blacks, with most pronounced improvements seen in the 50 to 64 age group. Hematologic malignancies have seen rapid progress due to better treatment protocols and the discovery of targeted therapies, the report states.

Another important finding of the report is the closing gap in racial disparity—the difference in cancer death rate was at a peak in 1990, with the excess risk growing to 47% in black men compared with white men, the report states. It dropped to 21%, however, in 2014, which could be due to a sharp decline in smoking initiation in the black population overall. A similar trend was observed in women of both races. The authors make note that post the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured among the minority population dropped. “If maintained, these shifts should help expedite progress in reducing socioeconomic disparities in cancer, as well as other health conditions,” they wrote.

You can read the complete report here.

    

 
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