Mo. blacks closing racial gap in new cancer cases

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Blacks in Missouri are closing the racial gap for newly diagnosed cancers, but their progress reducing cancer mortality is slower, a new report found.

An analysis of data from the Missouri Department of Health and state Cancer Registry found the rate of newly diagnosed cancers is roughly equal between blacks and whites in Missouri. Only a decade ago, it was higher for blacks.

In 1996, blacks in the state had an 18 percent higher rate of new cancer diagnoses than whites. By 2003, the disparity had shrunk to 6 percent.

"If the trend continues, we expect the difference in new diagnosis for blacks and whites will disappear by 2006," said Mario Schootman, lead author of the report that will be published early next year in the journal Missouri Medicine.

The 2006 data are not yet available for analysis, said Schootman, an associate professor of epidemiology and medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, and a leader at the Siteman Cancer Center.

He attributed the lower rates of new cancers to an overall decline in cigarette smoking and more cancer screenings.

Sherri Homan, a chronic disease epidemiologist at the Missouri Department of Health, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

And, although blacks in Missouri have reduced their cancer death rate, it is expected to remain higher than that of whites for some time, Schootman said.

In 1990, the cancer death rate for blacks was 48 percent higher than that of whites. By 2005, it had slipped to 28 percent higher.

But Schootman said it will take another 15 to 20 years before the disparity truly narrows.

While his analysis did not look at causes, he said other studies have found that blacks have less access to care, are not taking advantage of further screenings and available treatment, are not taking steps to live more healthfully, or often have more aggressive tumors.

The analysis of Missouri data from 1990 to 2005 also found that:

--Blacks were more likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than whites, but their death rate from this cancer was 42 percent higher.

--Black women had a 9 percent lower incidence of breast cancer than did white women but a 46 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

--Black men had a 116 percent higher rate of mortality from prostate cancer than did white men.

--Black men had a 15 percent higher death rate from lung cancer than did white men.

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