The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University, both in Detroit, are starting a $2.5 million, five-year federally funded search for the cause of high cancer rates among elderly black people.
Among Michigan residents ages 65 to 79, the cancer rate per 100,000 was 3,507 for black men and 2,786 for white men in 2002, according to the Michigan Department of Public Health. For black women, the rate per 100,000 was 1,751, compared with 1,666 for white women.
In addition to having higher rates of cancer, elderly blacks have much higher rates of cancer death, experts say. Much remains unknown about why cancer is more deadly and less frequently detected in elderly black people. Higher poverty rates, cultural biases against getting checkups and less access to healthcare all play a role, health experts say.
Karmanos will lead a $95 million national effort funded by the National Cancer Institute, pulling together 20 community agencies to search for answers. One of the group's first tasks will be to use a database of Detroit-area cancer patients to study treatment.
Among Michigan residents ages 50 to 64, the 2002 cancer rate per 100,000 is 1,399 for black men, 950 for white men, 847 for black women and 795 for white women, the state said.
Some cancers, such as lung, breast and prostate cancers, are more likely to crop up disproportionately in the black community. Getting people to doctors for screening tests and follow-up care is key to solving the problem, advocates say.