Addressing disparities in cancer care and incorporating precision medicine for minority populations

J Natl Med Assoc. 2023 May;115(2S):S2-S7. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2023.02.001. Epub 2023 Mar 30.


Cancer incidence and outcomes vary considerably between racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic (NH) Blacks are disproportionately burdened with the most common cancer types, having the highest death rate of any group. Racial health disparities are complex and have been identified at each step of the cancer care continuum, encompassing patient and provider factors and health care system processes. The higher cancer mortality among NH Blacks may reflect underuse of prevention strategies such as vaccination and screening, resulting in later stage of disease at diagnosis and underuse of cancer-directed therapy. Inequalities in the quality of care, including access to health care and receipt of recommended diagnostic and therapeutic interventions as well as supportive care also contribute to the excess burden of cancer-related deaths among NH Blacks. Non-clinical factors such as structural racism and lower socioeconomic status are associated with unequal access to resources such as housing, healthy foods, employment, and education, which have been demonstrated to drive racial disparities in cancer. Concerted efforts to understand and target the causes of the observed differences in access, screening, and treatment utilization will be critical for achieving more equitable treatment delivery and outcomes for all patients with cancer. Moreover, ongoing efforts to enhance diversity in clinical trials enrollment and access to novel precision medicine initiatives are processes warranted to reduce healthcare inequalities.

Keywords: Access to treatment; Disparities; Early detection; Prevention; Social determinants of health; Structural racism.

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity
  • Health Disparate Minority and Vulnerable Populations
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Precision Medicine*
  • United States / epidemiology