American Lung Association Report Shows Health Disparities in Lung Cancer in African Americans

Sacramento, CA (April 12, 2010)

The American Lung Association released its latest report today, Too Many Cases, Too Many Deaths: Lung Cancer in African Americans, a compilation of research examining lung cancer among African Americans and the need to eliminate this and other health disparities. The report provides important information on the possible biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that make African Americans more likely to get lung cancer and more likely to die from it.

"As an organization dedicated to public health, we have an important role to play in reducing the toll of lung cancer as the number one cancer killer among African Americans," said Jane Warner, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. 

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the nation.  It has been the leading cause of cancer death among men since the early 1950s, and in 1987 it surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. African Americans, however, suffer from lung cancer more than any other population group in the United States.  Key facts regarding this disparity include the following:

  • Despite lower smoking rates, African Americans are more likely to develop and die of lung cancer than whites. 
  • In California, deaths from lung cancer among African American women whereas 41 per 100,000 compared to 35 per 100,000 among white women
  • In California, 92 out of every 100,000 African American men were diagnosed with lung cancer compared to 62 out of every 100,000 white men
  • African American men are 37 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than white men, even though their overall exposure to cigarette smoke – the primary risk factor for lung cancer – is lower.
  • African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed later, when cancer is more advanced.
  • African Americans are more likely to wait longer after diagnosis to receive treatment, more likely to refuse treatment, and more likely to die in the hospital after surgery.

While the reasons for this unequal burden are not entirely clear, the Lung Association's report presents a compilation of research that examines smoking behavior, workplace exposures, genetics, access to healthcare, discrimination and social stress, as well as other possible contributors as to why African Americans are disproportionally affected by lung cancer. 

"This information comes at a crucial time in fighting lung cancer," Warner continued.  "The report's findings demonstrate why ALAC is making an extraordinary effort to qualify the California Cancer Research Act for the ballot this year.  This statewide initiative seeks raise $500 million a year in life-saving cancer research, including lung cancer research," said Warner.