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The AACR Releases a Call to Action and Key Statistics in Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024

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The AACR issues a call to action and cites progress, needed improvements, and key statistics in their Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024.

Robert A. Winn, MD, FAACR

Robert A. Winn, MD, FAACR

Featuring key cancer disparities statistics and 9 personal stories from cancer survivors of various backgrounds, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024 underscores the need for funding, legislation as well as policies to achieve health equity, and increased accessed to clinical trials. Although the AACR notes that the disparity in the overall cancer mortality rate between White vs Black patients has narrowed from 33.0% in 1990 to 11.3% in 2020, there are segments of the US population where there is still a disproportionate cancer burden.1

The AACR’s 2024 snapshot of US cancer disparities highlighted that Black individuals have the highest overall cancer death rate among all racial and ethnic groups. Significantly higher incidence and mortality rates for stomach and liver cancers are seen among American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Hispanic populations as well; these populations are twice as likely to die from stomach cancer compared with White individuals.1,2 Further, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander women are 21% more likely to die due to breast cancer compared with White women.2

“The findings of this report offer a deeper dive into the ‘whole person’ as it relates to the areas outside of medicine that contribute to health inequities: ZNA [ZIP code and neighborhood of association], institutional and systemic racism, and situational and physical barriers to access, to name a few,” Robert A. Winn, MD, FAACR, said in a news release.1

Winn, the chair of the AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024 Steering Committee and director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center in Richmond, added that “as we continue to look at cancer incidences and outcomes and cross check them against these other factors, while having critical conversations that spur meaningful action within our affected communities, our path forward will become clearer. We have seen tremendous progress against cancer in the last few decades, but we must keep fighting to ensure equal access and improved health care delivery for all people. The key is to keep talking, reporting, and advocating.”

Key Report Highlights on Disparities

In terms of location, the AACR report found that residents of rural countries are 38% more likely to receive a lung cancer diagnosis and die from lung cancer compared with residents of large metropolitan or urban counties. For all cancers combined, residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods had a 22% higher mortality rate compared with those living in advantaged neighborhoods.2

Disparities statistics also revealed that Asian women who have never smoked are experiencing a higher incidence of lung cancer. Additionally, Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared with White men, and Black individuals are twice as likely to receive a multiple myeloma diagnosis and die from multiple myeloma.1

“Even though the incidence of breast cancer is similar in Black and White women, Black women have a 40% higher likelihood of dying from it,” the report added.

The report also noted that transgender women appear to be at a 60% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared with cisgender men, but they have approximately double the likelihood of dying from prostate cancer. Transgender individuals are also at a 76% higher risk of receiving an advanced stage lung cancer diagnosis compared with cisgender individuals.2

Steps Being Taken to Reduce Disparities: A Call to Action

“Researchers have identified a range of complex and interrelated factors that drive cancer disparities in the United States; many of them have been perpetuated by a long history of structural inequities and societal injustices,” the AACR steering committee wrote in the report.

They explained that racism, discrimination, and segregation followed by structural inequalities and societal injustices have impacted drivers of health. Disparities in the cancer care continuum including development, risk reduction, early detection, treatment, and survivorship as well as disparities in cancer research, care trainees, and the workforce including educators, cancer researchers, physicians, physician-scientists, and health care professionals have impacted adverse health outcomes according to the report.

The AACR listed the following as effective approaches to reduce cancer care disparities:

  • Building community trust and partnerships in health care systems through public education and awareness.
  • Developing culturally and linguistically tailored interventions.
  • Implementing patient navigation to reduce the structural barriers.
  • Improving access to and coverage of health insurance such as Medicaid expansion and minimizing out-of-pocket costs.
  • Enhancing communication between providers and patients.

To collect diverse datasets the following efforts are currently underway: The AACR Project Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange®, African Cancer Genome Registry, Avanzando Caminos (Leading Pathways) Study, Black Women’s Health Study, Multiethnic Cohort Study, Southern Community Cohort Study, and Women’s Circle of Health Study.

The AACR concluded the Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024 with a call to action, urging policy makers and stakeholders to increase access to clinical trials, enact comprehensive legislation to eliminate health inequities, increase screening for early detection and prevention, and support data collection initiatives to reduce cancer disparities.

They also said that funding be provided, with the suggestion that Congress appropriates $51.3 billion or more for the National Institutes of Health and $7.9 billion or more for National Cancer Institute in the 2025 fiscal year.

The AACR added that Congress should “appropriate $472.4 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s [CDC’s] Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and provide resources to enable CDC’s CORE Health Equity Science and Intervention Strategy. Congress should robustly support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cancer Moonshot Activities, including the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights.”

References

  1. AACR releases Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024. News release. AACR. May 15, 2024. Accessed May 17, 2024. https://www.aacr.org/about-the-aacr/newsroom/news-releases/aacr-releases-cancer-disparities-progress-report-2024/
  2. AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2024. May 15, 2024. Accessed May 17, 2024. https://cancerprogressreport.aacr.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2024/05/AACR_CDPR_2024.pdf
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