Report details cancer burden facing Black patients in California


In the first report of its kind, researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center conclude that black patients in California are more likely to develop late-stage cancer and less likely to survive most cancers.

Released today, The Burden of Cancer Among Black/African Americans in California report highlights some cancer trends among black communities across the state and points to potential underlying causes.

New study finds black patients in California develop late-stage cancer and are less likely to survive most cancers.

The cancer center’s report includes detailed statistics sourced from the California Cancer Registry (CCR), the state-mandated population-based cancer surveillance system. The CCNR collects demographic, diagnostic, and treatment information about cancer cases diagnosed in the state.

Since 2012, the California Cancer Reporting and Epidemiologic Surveillance (CalCARES) program, within the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, has partnered with the California Department of Public Health to manage the CCNR’s activities.

“While cancer rates are declining in California, progress has not been the same for everyone,” said Cyllene Morris, director of the CalCARES research program and lead author of the report. “Differences persist for many racial/ethnic groups, especially black patients, and addressing these underlying conditions and root causes is essential to achieve health equality for all.”

Key findings in the report include:

The cancer incidence for all cancers combined was lower in black women and men, compared with white patients, but the death rates were higher. A significantly higher percentage of black (vs. white) patients with lung, oropharyngeal, cervical and breast cancer were diagnosed at a late stage, when outcomes are often worse. 8% of black patients had three or more comorbidities (health problems) compared to 9.8% of white patients. Black patients were also more likely than white patients to live in impoverished areas (43.4% vs. 17.4%) and were covered by Medicaid/public insurance (20% vs. 7.8%). Specifically, black patients had worse survival rates for cancers of the breast, prostate, bladder, thyroid, uterus, oropharynx, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, even after taking into account gender, age, comorbidity level, socioeconomic status, stage of disease at diagnosis and type of health insurance. Interestingly, black patients had higher survival rates for multiple myeloma and lung cancer, compared with white patients when the same sociodemographic and clinical factors were taken into account.

“It’s incredible that when we match modifiable variables such as socioeconomic status, stage at diagnosis, and type of health insurance, black Californians have lung cancer outcomes at least as good as white patients. This finding shines a spotlight on the fact that inequalities in social determinants of health and public health interventions, such as lung cancer screening, affect whether a person survives or dies from cancer,” said David Tom Cooke, professor and chief of the Division of General Thoracic Surgery and co-author of the report.

The report points out that, in general, black patients are more likely to be socio-economically disadvantaged compared to whites, which in turn can lead to reduced access to quality health care.

“By providing information about the burden of cancer among Black/African Americans, the CalCARES program hopes to contribute to equality efforts across the cancer care continuum,” said Theresa Keegan, professor and principal investigator of CalCARES.

Other authors of the report include Ani S. Movsisyan, Brenda Hofer, Arti Parikh-Patel and Theodore Wun.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care to more than 100,000 adults and children each year and have access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any time. The innovative research program includes more than 240 UC Davis scientists working together to advance the discovery of new tools for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Patients have access to advanced care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. The Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses the disparities in cancer outcomes across populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and staffing programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit

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