Four leading national cancer organizations have released a joint statement outlining a strategy to help all cancer patients benefit from cancer research, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or where they live.
The American Cancer Society, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the National Cancer Institute developed the strategy during a 2014 summit that included cancer research experts, health policy experts, and patient advocates.
The statement acknowledges the way different populations in the U.S. are affected by cancer. Studies in the early 1970s began pointing out that black Americans had higher rates of death from certain cancers than white Americans. Over the decades, research showed differences in outcomes for other racial and ethnic groups. Research also looked at differences in access to care, the quality of care, the likelihood of getting cancer, and other health outcomes beyond death rates.
The studies show that members of racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as people with low socioeconomic status, have worse cancer outcomes for a variety of reasons. These include access to health care, lifestyle factors, and genetic differences. According to the statement, the more these factors can be studied and understood, the more effectively they can be addressed.
"We’re hoping we can focus oncology care and the oncology workforce such that it provides better care to all Americans. . . Ultimately, disparities mean people die when they don’t need to die. This is an attempt to make society in general and especially medical society focus on that fact,” said Otis Brawley, MD, our chief medical officer.
The joint statement was published July 24 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer Research, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and on the National Cancer Institute website. It identifies top priorities in cancer health disparities research and makes recommendations for the future.
"Each of our organizations has a unique set of views, skills, and resources," said Dr. Brawley. "Our hope is that by speaking as one, we can bring a strong, unified approach and together strengthen all of our efforts in addressing one of the most pressing issues in cancer medicine today."
For more on the Society’s work in this area, see Cancer Health Disparities Research on cancer.org.