Skip to nav Skip to content

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Historically, data have shown that Black men and women are more affected by the disease than white men and women. However, a recent study published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum shows that racial disparities among new lung cancer diagnoses have disappeared.  

The study, led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, analyzed smoking data from the National Health Interview Survey and lung cancer data from the Cancer in North America Database. The research team looked at five-year, age-specific lung cancer incidence among Black and white men and women 55 and younger, as well as smoking prevalence in each group.

The analysis showed lung cancer diagnoses decreased in Black and white men born since 1947 and in women born since 1957. The declines were steeper in Black Americans compared to white Americans, and researchers say that is because the decrease in smoking rates was much higher among Blacks. So much so that lung cancer rates for Black women are lower than those for white women.

Dr. Matthew Schabath

Dr. Matthew Schabath, Associate Member, Cancer Epidemiology Department

“These results further demonstrate the benefits of anti-tobacco public health policy efforts, which have reduced lung cancer rates in most Americans and closed the gap in lung cancer disparities among the Black community,” said Dr. Matthew Schabath, an epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “However, we must have continued efforts to eliminate cancer disparities among all disparate, vulnerable and underserved populations.”

The researchers did identify one exception, a five-year period, 1977 to 1982, where lung cancer rates were higher in Black men. They say it is important to note that this study looked at smoking on a population level instead of an individual level and did not account for how much people had smoked.