A Comprehensive Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Cancer and Disparities

Community outreach and engagement are essential to addressing the unequal burden of cancer carried by many racial and ethnic groups. Specific cancers often have a greater impact on particular population groups, striking one ethnic group more severely or more often than another.

Behavioral, biological, treatment, prevention, and economic issues contribute to cancer health disparities. The UCCCC Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities (OCECD) is committed to reducing health disparities, especially among residents of Chicago and surrounding areas.

The City of Chicago is home to 2.7 million people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The 2010 U.S. Census reports that Chicago's population includes 887,000 Blacks/African Americans, 778,000 Hispanics/Latinos, 169,000 Asians/Pacific Islanders, and 13,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives—all with varying heathcare needs and some needs that are unique to the Chicago area.

African Americans
African Americans carry the heaviest burden of cancer in the U.S, according to the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. African Americans have a death rate for all cancers that is almost 25% higher than the rate observed in Whites. Although the incidence of breast cancer is higher in White women than in African American women, breast cancer deaths in African American women far exceed the number of breast cancer deaths for White women. Similarly, prostate cancer affects African American men more severely than other racial groups. African American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the U.S. and are twice as likely as White men to die from the disease.

American Indians/Alaska Natives
Mortality rates for kidney cancer are higher in American Indians/Alaska Natives than in any other racial or ethnic population, according to the American Cancer Society. The risk of death after prostate cancer diagnosis is also the highest for this group. It is important to note that cancer information for American Indians/Alaska Natives is incomplete because the racial/ethnic status of many of these individuals has not been correctly identified in medical records.

Asians/Pacific Islanders
Asians/Pacific Islanders have a lower cancer incidence than any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.; however, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that more Asians/Pacific Islanders died from cancer in 2008, than from any other cause, including heart disease—which is the leading cause of death for all other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. (except for American Indians/Alaska Natives, for whom cancer also surpassed heart disease). In addition, SEER data show that Asians/Pacific Islanders in the U.S. have the highest incidence rates for both liver and stomach cancers and are twice as likely as Whites to die from these diseases. Liver and stomach cancers have been linked to infection—liver cancer with chronic viral hepatitis (see related story) and stomach cancer with H. pylori. Between 2010-2030, liver cancer rates are anticipated to increase by 59%, in part due to the increasing number of Asian immigrants infected with chronic viral hepatitis. Click here to watch a video with more information about Hepatitis B and liver cancer.

The Hispanic population in the U.S. also has a high rate for cancers associated with infection, including liver, stomach, and cervical cancers. In fact, the American Cancer Society reports that cervical cancer incidence rates among Hispanic women living in the U.S. are about 70% higher than those of non-Hispanic Whites, and the highest rates were found among Hispanic women in the Midwest. Overall, the most common cancers among Hispanics/Latinos are prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers.

These statistics substantiate the critical need to address cancer disparities in local neighborhoods and underscore the UCCCC's obligation to reach out to these communities with information, research, and educational programs.