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FOR RELEASE: April 4, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Cancer is a Leading Health Concern Among Minorities

State health officials announced today that April 17-23 is National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Office of Minority Health (OMH) and Chronic Disease Service have identified cancer as one of the leading health concerns among minorities. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer are of the highest incidence among minority populations.

For Oklahoma’s minority population, (African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American), cancer serves as a leading cause of death. The following death rates show this trend. Oklahoma’s cancer death rate for African Americans is 143 cases per 100,000 population, compared to the U.S. rate of 163/100,000. The state African American cancer death rate exceeds these cancer death rates for other minorities: Native Americans, 90/100,000; Asian Americans, 69/100,000; and Hispanic/Latino, 48/100,000. The rate for Hispanics is significantly lower than the U.S rate of 78/100,000. The rate for Native Americans, however, exceeded the U.S. rate of 85/100,000 in 1998, according to the OSDH State of the State’s Health Year 2000 report. The Native American rate is significant because it is the only state cancer rate among the minority groups that exceeded the U.S. rate. However, the overall mortality rate for Oklahoma’s Native American population is lower than other states.

An important factor associated with this increased mortality rate is the later stage at diagnosis for cancer among African-American and, in some cases, Native Americans in Oklahoma. Individuals diagnosed with cancer at later stage are significantly more likely to die from the disease. According to 1997 Oklahoma Central Cancer Registry data, African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with distant stage lung cancer (61 percent vs. 41 percent for whites), distant stage colorectal cancer (27 percent vs. 16 percent for whites), and distant female breast cancer (7 percent vs. 4 percent for whites). Native American women are more likely to be diagnosed with late state breast cancer (11 percent compared to 4 percent for whites).

"A variety of strategies have been identified as helpful in defusing the damaging effects of cancer. Diet, exercise, early detection health screenings and prevention education have been proven to be effective," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. Nida said the OMH proposes to continue its efforts to address cancer concerns through partnership with federal, state, local and private entities dedicated to the health improvement of minority populations.

The Oklahoma OMH has collaborated with the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer to address cancer concerns. The primary outcome of the initiative has been the utilization of a survey to assess the incidence of cancer among all minority groups. Other cancer initiatives have been achieved statewide through collaboration with local community organizations.

Cancer serves as one of the leading causes of death for all Americans. Cancer is considered to be one of the four major categories of chronic diseases, along with heart/cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/stroke. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 1996, chronic diseases accounted for 71.8 percent of all reported deaths (1.6 million of total 2.3 million). In Oklahoma, the death rate for chronic disease was 72.8 percent (24,122 of total 33,119) in 1996.

The CDC reported that the U.S. cancer death rate for all races was 201.6 cases per 100,000 population, placing it second behind heart disease at 271.6/100,000 in 1997. For Oklahomans of all races, the incidence of cancer is consistent with national statistics. Cancer serves as the second leading cause of death for all Oklahomans at 218.1/100,000 ranking behind the heart disease rate of 339.8/100,000 (1997 crude data). The CDC also reported that 21 percent of all deaths in Oklahoma in 1997 were attributable to cancer.

Cancer produces significant costs to society in terms of its financial impact. Reports by the National Cancer Institute have shown that cancer accounts for $104 billion in total costs, which includes $57 billion for mortality costs, $35 billion for direct medical costs and $112 billion for morbidity costs.

For more information about minority health issues, contact the OMH at 405/271-5161.

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