African Americans and Cancer

Source: Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111-2497


According to the American Cancer Society, the burden of some cancers is greater on African Americans.

Skin Cancer and African Americans

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, including African Americans. When skin cancer is found at a later stage, it is often harder to treat. So, knowing the signs and symptoms and how to protect yourself and your family can help find skin cancer early. To learn more about skin cancer and dark skin from the National Cancer Institute click here.


Prostate Cancer and African Americans

Prostate cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. For reasons that are unclear, incidence rates are significantly higher in African American men than in white men.

Age, ethnicity and family history are the main risk factors for prostate cancer. With regards to ethnicity, African American men and Jamaican men of African descent have the highest prostate cancer incidence in the world.


Breast Cancer and African Americans

Although more white women are diagnosed with breast cancer, more black women die from the disease. Research has shown that black women are often diagnosed at later, harder-to-treat stages of breast cancer and have more aggressive breast cancers. Access to top-quality care and genetics may contribute to increased risk. Learn more about your personal risk for breast cancer.


Lung Cancer and African Americans

Research suggests that blacks are 55% more likely than whites to develop lung cancer from light to moderate cigarette smoking. The results hold true even after considering factors such as diet, socioeconomic status and occupations, suggesting that genetics and biology may play a role. Get the help you need to quit smoking.


Colorectal Cancer and African Americans

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among African Americans. Because African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in its more advanced stages, it is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths in this group. For reasons that are unknown, incidence rates for African Americans are higher than for whites. This data is especially disappointing because colorectal cancer can be prevented and, if caught early, has a 90% cure rate.

Periodic screenings for colorectal cancer can detect polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancers capable of spreading to other parts of the body. The good news is that most polyps can be removed without surgery.


Detecting Cancer Later in African Americans

African Americans are more likely than whites to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer. This may be due to factors such as less knowledge about cancer symptoms and reduced access to cancer screening services. Later stage detection adds to lower cure rates and shorter survival.