State of Lung Cancer Report Highlights Racial Disparities

This year, the American Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer report examined, for the first time, racial and ethnic disparities in lung cancer diagnoses and treatment.

The State of Lung Cancer annual report provides data on the burden of lung cancer on the state level. And while the overall lung cancer survival rate has increased over the past five years from 13% to 22.6%, according to this year’s figures, racial and ethnic minority patients with lung cancer have poorer outcomes compared to White patients.

“People of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to White Americans: they are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment and more likely to not receive any treatment,” the report summarizes.

An estimated 30 million Americans are uninsured—half of whom are people of color, according to the report. Health coverage plays a significant role in outcomes, so addressing this disparity may be a step in ensuring that minority patients are screened and treated for lung cancer.

According to the report, Black Americans with lung cancer, compared to White patients, were 16% less likely to be diagnosed early (defined as receiving a diagnosis before the tumor has spread), 19% less likely to receive surgical treatment, and 7% more likely not to be treated at all. For Latino patients, the disparities were 13%, 2%, and 39%, respectively; for American Indians/Alaska Natives, they were 14%, 19%, and 15%, respectively. Asian American and Pacific Islander patients, compared to White patients, were 15% less likely to receive an early diagnosis and 10% more likely to not be treated, but they were 11% more likely to undergo surgery.

“Diagnosing it earlier in Stage One or Stage Two affords the ability to save lives by curative resection or earlier treatment of the disease,” said Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, according to WNKY 40.