Lung Cancer Alliance Lauds New Research On African Americans and Lung Cancer
Washington, DC [February 24, 2010] -- A new analysis published this week in the journal Cancer
indicates that misperceptions about risk, symptoms and the lethality
of lung cancer may play a role in the disproportionately higher
incidence and mortality rates for lung cancer among African Americans.
The first author of the report, Christopher Lathan MD,
MS, MPH, an oncologist at Dana-Farber and a professor at Harvard
Medical School, is one of the leading researchers in the country on
disparity issues in lung cancer and a member of the Medical and
Scientific Advisory Board of Lung Cancer Alliance.
The paper, entitled "Racial Differences in the
Perception of Lung Cancer," analyzes data from a national telephone
surveys carried out in by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2003
Only 26% of those surveyed correctly identified lung cancer as the biggest cancer killer.
"All races and both sexes grossly underestimated the
lethality of lung cancer," Dr. Lathan pointed out. "But we also found
that African Americans were more reluctant than white respondents to get
checked for fear of the disease, less likely to blame it on behavioral
causes, and less likely to seek care early."
He called these misperceptions "a grave concern"
because African American men are being diagnosed at later stage, and
stage is linked to outcomes.
According to NCI statistics cited in the paper, African
American men are two to four times more likely to have lung cancer,
even when adjusted for differences in smoking rates. The survival gap
started in the early 1980's and has been sustained since then.
Previous papers by Dr.
Lathan found that African Americans obtain surgery for lung cancer less
often than whites and do less well under treatment, with
socio-economic factors implicated.
Lung Cancer Alliance President
Laurie Fenton-Ambrose acknowledged the important work of Dr. Lathan
and noted that these findings underscore the need to pass the Lung
Cancer Mortality Reduction Act now pending in both Houses of Congress.
The bill specifically cites the lung cancer disparity
issue and calls for more research and an early detection program
targeting minority and low income populations.
Congresswoman Donna Christensen (D-VI), the primary
sponsor in the House, said: "The findings from this study validate the
need for far greater communication about lung cancer overall, the
benefits of screening and early detection and concrete steps that we
can and should take to end this disparity."
She is the only woman medical doctor in Congress, a
member of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over
health policy, and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health
To view a video of Dr. Christopher Lathan discussing racial disparities and lung cancer, click here.