Do Ethnic Minorities Have Less Access to Cancer Screening

The prevalence for different types of cancer varies greatly according to the race and ethnicity of the population in question.  For example:

  • While the gap (as compared to non-Hispanic whites has narrowed since 1991) black Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. The most common cancers among men in 2009 are projected to be prostate (34%), lungnocascrn (16%), and colorectal (10%) cancer, and among women, breast (25%), lung (12%), and colorectal (11%) cancer. For all cancer types, blacks are far more likely to be diagnosed in advanced stages of disease, when the cancer is less treatable.  Blacks are also less likely than whites to survive 5 years after a diagnosis, regardless of cancer type and stage of diagnosis.
  • Cancers associated with viral infection are the most common caners in Hispanics/Latinos. Women have the second highest number of cases of cervical cancer (which is often caused by human papillomavirus) while cases of liver cancer (which is often caused by the hepatitis virus) are twice as high in Hispanic men and women as in non-Hispanic whites.
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop and die from both liver and stomach cancers than all other racial or ethnic groups (except in the case of stomach cancer where their prevalence and death rates are second to those of blacks).

Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to cancer screening

Medical researchers focusing on areas of health care disparities continue investigations to elucidate these figures. The interrelationship between multiple factors continues to yield reasons that are complex.

“Rates are driven by social and economic factors,” says Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, ACS Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research. “In the African American population, there’s far less utilization of screening. For example, in 2005, 44% of African Americans were screened for colorectal cancer, compared to 51% of whites.”

Other research reveals this failure to access care through regular recommended screening is true across all racial/ethnic minority groups. Surveys show that about a third of Hispanic/Latinos and 20% of blacks have no coverage at all. The consequences are significant as people who don’t get mammograms, colon exams, and Pap tests on schedule are more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer at a later stage in the disease, when survival rates are lower.

“Having health insurance coverage is the single greatest determinant of access to health care services,” explained Eve Nagler, ACS Director of Special Populations.

Access Resources:

Use this CDC interactive map to locate National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program low-cost and free screening resources near you.


Cancer’s Racial Gap Narrowing yet Challenges Persist. In ACS News Center. American Cancer Society.  Cited April 22, 2009. Available at <;

Cancer Is A Burden, Finding Help Should Be. In In the Spotlight.  American Cancer Society. Cited April 22, 2009.  Available at <;

Bridging the Disparity Gap.  In In the Spotlight.  American Cancer Society. Cited April 22, 2009.  Available at <;

One Response to “Do Ethnic Minorities Have Less Access to Cancer Screening”
  1. cb says:

    It’s a really interesting point. I have been trying to find some data regarding incidence of cancer diagnosis and treatment in the UK where there is a type of universal health care. I found a study from King’s College London –

    but there are some differences highlighted all the same. Although here, there is a question that possibly some minority ethnic groups may be less reluctant to contact medical services even if there is no cost attached due to a perceived (and very possible correctly perceived) paternalistic view.

    It’s an interesting compare and contrast though.

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