Racial disparities in health exist not only with cervical cancer but other cancers and medical conditions as well.
The National Cancer Institute states that African-Americans have the highest mortality rate “Of any racial or ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers.” Furthermore, for all cancers combined, “The death rates is 25% higher for African-Americans/blacks than for whites.Researchers who conducted the study found that a lack of consideration for hysterectomy rates in prior studies has resulted in an”underestimation” of mortality rates and racial disparities regarding cervical cancer.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic findings by researchers is that without correction for hysterectomy, racial disparities for cancer mortality rates between black and white women have been underestimated by about 44%. Somewhat more hopefully, the study showed that black women had a significant yearly decrease in cervical cancer mortality overall when compared to white women after correction for hysterectomy.
This is not a new phenomenon and it is not unique to cervical cancer, but it still takes my breath away that racial disparities in health continue to be so robust.
Undoubtedly, the role of the HPV vaccine is important in preventing cervical cancer, and it is a vaccine that I routinely recommend and administer to my patients.
As we work to improve mortality rates for all cancers and look for causes and solutions for racial disparities in health, these recent findings about cervical cancer should be part of the discussion.