(HealthDay News) — Although African-Americans experienced decreases in cancer death rates from 2000 to 2009, the five-year survival rates are still lower than for whites, according to research published online Feb. 5 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Carol DeSantis, M.P.H., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues used data to examine cancer incidence, mortality, survival, screening test use, and risk factors for African-Americans in the United States.

For African-American males, the researchers found that the overall cancer death rate declined by 2.4 percent per year from 2000 to 2009, compared with a 1.7 percent decrease per year in white males; the decrease among African-American males was the largest for any racial/ethnic group. For women, the rate of decline in cancer deaths was 1.5 versus 1.4 percent per year for African-American and white females, respectively. Despite the overall drop in mortality of nearly 200,000 deaths in African-Americans since 1990 and 1991, for men and women, respectively, the five-year relative survival rates were still lower for African-Americans than whites, at each stage of diagnosis.

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“Our estimates highlight the disproportionate burden of cancer in African-Americans, which may, in part, be related to unequal access to medical care and differences in the receipt of treatment,” the authors write. “Overall, progress in reducing cancer death rates has been made, although more can and should be done to accelerate this progress through ensuring equitable access to cancer prevention; early detection; and treatments such as tobacco control efforts, screening for breast and colorectal cancer, and the dissemination of state-of-the-art cancer therapies.”

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