Background: Cancer incidence and mortality rates have decreased over the last few decades, yet not all groups have benefited equally from these successes. This has resulted in increased disparities in cancer burden among various population groups.
Objective: This study examined trends in absolute and relative disparities in overall cancer incidence and mortality rates between African American and white residents of Wisconsin during the period 1995-2006.
Methods: Cancer incidence data were obtained from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System. Mortality data were accessed from the National Center for Health Statistics' public use mortality file. Trends in incidence and mortality rates during 1995-2006 for African Americans and whites were calculated and changes in relative disparity were measured using rate ratios.
Results: With few exceptions, African American incidence and mortality rates were higher than white rates in every year of the period 1995-2006. Although cancer mortality and incidence declined for both groups over the period, relative racial disparities in rates persisted over the period and account for about a third of African American cancer deaths.
Conclusions: Elimination of cancer health disparities will require further research into the many contributing factors, as well as into effective interventions to address them. In Wisconsin, policymakers, health administrators, and health care professsionals need to balance resources carefully and set appropriate priorities to target racial inequities in cancer burden.