Due to all cancers combined, black men are known to live 1.47 fewer years than white men, while black women live 0.91 fewer years than white women.
Mitchell D. Wong, lead author and associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said this is the first time scientists have calculated the precise extent to which cancer incidence, stage at diagnosis and survival after cancer play a role in blacks’ shorter life expectancy.
“Putting a number on it is very informative, because when you look at the figures, you see that the reason their mortality is worse is almost entirely due to the fact that blacks are more likely to get cancer,” Wong said. “This highlights the importance of prevention – it’s where most of the efforts should be.”
Breast cancer, however, didn’t follow this pattern. White women are actually more likely to develop breast cancer than black women. But black women’s greater mortality from breast cancer derived from their much more unfavorable stage at diagnosis and survival after developing the disease.
“This argues for much more research and efforts to close the gap in breast cancer screening and treatment,” Wong said.
The scientists examined data from the Surveillance and Epidemiology End Result (SEER) cancer registry and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). These two sources comprised some 2.7 million white and 291,000 black cancer patients from 12 geographic regions in the United States: San Francisco/Oakland, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Seattle (Puget Sound), Utah, Atlanta, Alaska, San Jose/Monterey and Los Angeles.