Calling Attention to the Role of Race-Driven Societal Determinants of Health on Aggressive Tumor Biology: A Focus on Black Americans

JCO Oncol Pract. 2021 Jul 13;OP2100297. doi: 10.1200/OP.21.00297. Online ahead of print.


Blacks have the highest incidence and mortality from most cancers. The reasons for these disparities remain unclear. Blacks are exposed to adverse social determinants because of historic and contemporary racist polices; however, how these determinants affect the disparities that Blacks experience is understudied. As a result of discriminatory community policies, like redlining, Blacks have higher exposure to air pollution and neighborhood deprivation. Studies investigating how these factors affect tumor biology are emerging. We highlight the literature that connects racism-related community exposure to the tumor biology in breast, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer. Further investigations that clarify the link between adverse social determinants that result from systemic racism and aggressive tumor biology are required if health equity is to be achieved. Without recognition that racism is a public health risk with carcinogenic impact, health care delivery and cancer care will never achieve excellence. In response, health systems ought to establish corrective actions to improve Black population health and bring medical justice to marginalized racialized groups.

Publication types

  • Editorial