Addressing Cancer Health Disparities


On April 8, 1987, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Joint Resolution 119 designated the third week in April as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week.

Since then, groups across the country have used the week to draw attention to the unfortunate reality that certain subgroups of our population are disproportionately impacted by cancer.

We refer to these differences, or inequities, as “cancer health disparities.”

These disparities exist within both the incidence and mortality rates of cancer. As an example, not only is the rate of cancer among African-American men higher than any other subgroup, but their cancer mortality rates are also higher. Differences also exist within certain types of cancers. African-American women, for example, are more likely than white women to develop an aggressive triple-negative subtype of breast cancer and Hispanic subgroups of women are at higher risk of cervical cancer.

While we often think of minority groups in terms of race and ethnicity, it’s important to note that other group-defining characteristics impact the risk of cancer, including access to health insurance, income level and geographic location.

In addition, cancer disparities cannot be contributed to a single causal factor. For some, it is an issue of access to care. For others, it’s related to uncontrollable genetic factors that research is still working to explore. While for others it could be lifestyle choices such as smoking or dietary decisions that lead to elevated risk. And all the contributing factors often have underlying social and economic causes. So this is a multi-level problem, requiring a multi-level solution.

Here at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, members of our Office of Community Outreach and Engagement work each and every day to better understand, address and reduce these disparities through research, educational programs and community outreach.

Our goal is to ensure equal access to not only our cancer services, but also to the wealth of cancer information and educational programs we have to offer. 

“Stormin’ the Streets” in WNY for Minority Cancer Awareness Week

In recognition of the national awareness week, we will be “Stormin’ the Streets” in a series of events organized to bring our programs and information directly to the members of the Western New York community who may need it the most and may be at highest risk of cancer. 

Read more about “Stormin’ the Streets” for the locations and dates of our events, running April 14 - April 20, 2012.

Related Links and Resources:

Stormin’ the Streets event listing on facebook

Cancer Health Disparities Program at Roswell Park

Roswell Park Faculty Receive $8.5 Million In Disparities Grants From Federal Agencies