Cancer disparities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status

CA Cancer J Clin. 2004 Mar-Apr;54(2):78-93. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.54.2.78.


This article highlights disparities in cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in relation to race/ethnicity, and census data on poverty in the county or census tract of residence. The incidence and survival data derive from the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program; mortality data are from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS); data on the prevalence of major cancer risk factors and cancer screening are from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by NCHS. For all cancer sites combined, residents of poorer counties (those with greater than or equal to 20% of the population below the poverty line) have 13% higher death rates from cancer in men and 3% higher rates in women compared with more affluent counties (less than 10% below the poverty line). Differences in cancer survival account for part of this disparity. Among both men and women, five-year survival for all cancers combined is 10 percentage points lower among persons who live in poorer than in more affluent census tracts. Even when census tract poverty rate is accounted for, however, African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander men and African American and American Indian/Alaskan Native women have lower five-year survival than non-Hispanic Whites. More detailed analyses of selected cancers show large variations in cancer survival by race and ethnicity. Opportunities to reduce cancer disparities exist in prevention (reductions in tobacco use, physical inactivity, and obesity), early detection (mammography, colorectal screening, Pap tests), treatment, and palliative care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Racial Groups
  • Social Class
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology