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April 24, 2002

Race/Ethnicity and Cancer SurvivalThe Elusive Target of Biological Differences

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham.

JAMA. 2002;287(16):2138-2139. doi:10.1001/jama.287.16.2138

Blacks live shorter lives than whites in US society. A newborn in the United States in 1998 had an average life expectancy of 77.3 years if white, 71.3 if black.1 Furthermore, although life expectancy has increased by about 3 years overall since 1980, the 6-year disadvantage for blacks has not changed. This lower life expectancy, hence earlier mortality, for blacks is a reality that holds true overall but also, with alarming uniformity, across sex, age, and disease subgroups. Potential explanations for this disparity fall into 2 broad categories: environmental/societal/behavioral vs biological/genetic. Underlying the latter is the concept that race/ethnicity is, at least in part, a biological construct.

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