Why are cancer rates higher in African-Americans?

Nov 14, 2020 | Asbestos-related Diseases

Historically, Black Americans have been diagnosed with certain kinds of cancers more often than whites, including lung cancer. While there has been progress in “closing the gap” over the years, the disparity remains.

Between 2015-2016, for example, cancer deaths among Black men between 40-49 years of age were still 17% higher than fatality rates for White men of the same age (down from 102% higher between 1990-1991). For Black women in that age range, the death rate from cancer was 30% higher than among White women during the same period.

What’s behind these numbers? Well, first it’s important to remember that lung cancer is not a “smoker’s disease.” Roughly 20% of people who eventually contract the disease never smoked. The disease can strike virtually anyone, and there is some indication that Blacks may have a higher genetic inclination to develop lung cancer. In addition, some other factors may be in play that are skewing the numbers:

  • The gap between cancer rates among Black and White men has been closing largely due to the fact that Black men are smoking less than White men in recent years.
  • African-Americans are generally less likely than Whites to have college degrees. For many, the best avenue they have for financial stability is through factory work or military service — which means they are more likely to be exposed to toxins like asbestos that cause cancer.
  • Socio-economic issues also make Blacks less likely to have access to high-quality health care services that can aid in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Ultimately, the reason for the disparity is still not fully understood — but there are definite clues that may one day help researchers and doctors eliminate lung cancer for good. Until that time, however, victims of the disease who think they may have been exposed to asbestos or another toxin on the job should find out more about their options for compensation. An experienced attorney can show you how to initiate a claim.