Studying cancer in minorities

A look at the numbers




Inclusion of minorities is an important but challenging aspect of epidemiologic studies in the United States. One aspect of this challenge that has received little attention is the actual number of minorities with specific cancers. The authors aimed to understand how population characteristics affect the numbers of minority cancer cases in Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) regions.


By using SEER data, the authors identified 6 cancers with higher incidence rates in racial and ethnic minorities and reviewed the annual number of cases of those cancers in SEER areas where there are large numbers of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. The authors examined the age characteristics of the populations in SEER areas using data from the US Census.


Although there are substantial numbers of cases for the most common cancers with higher incidence in blacks, their numbers are quite small for other cancers, <150 cases, and in many areas, <100 per year. Few registries have substantial numbers of Hispanics or Asians. As expected, the proportion of minority populations is lower in older age groups, whereas the proportion of non-Hispanic whites is larger.


Because of the sharp decline in minority populations associated with age and the high age-specific incidence rates of most cancers, the actual number of minority cases is quite small for several cancers. Thus, the inclusion of minority groups in studies of any but the most common cancers presents a challenge. Cancer 2011. © 2011 American Cancer Society.