Disparities in Health Care
as defined by NCI
NCI: Cancer Health
The National Cancer
Institute (NCI) defines "cancer health disparities" as
adverse differences in
cancer incidence (new cases),
cancer prevalence (all existing cases),
cancer death (mortality),
cancer survivorship, and
burden of cancer or related health conditions that exist among
specific population groups in the United States
What factors contribute
to cancer health disparities?
interrelated factors contribute to the observed disparities in
cancer incidence and death among racial, ethnic, and underserved
The most obvious factors are associated with a lack of health
care coverage and low socioeconomic status (SES). SES is most
often based on a person's income, education level, occupation,
and other factors, such as social status in the community and
where he or she lives.
Studies have found that SES, more than race or ethnicity,
predicts the likelihood of an individual's or a group's access
to education, certain occupations, health insurance, and living
conditions—including conditions where exposure to environmental
toxins is most common—all of which are associated with the risk
of developing and surviving cancer.
SES, in particular, appears to play a major role in influencing
the prevalence of behavioral risk factors for cancer (for
example, tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and
excessive alcohol intake, and health status), as well as in
following cancer screening recommendations.
Research also shows that individuals from medically underserved
populations are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage
diseases that might have been treated more effectively or cured
if diagnosed earlier.
Financial, physical, and cultural beliefs are also barriers that
prevent individuals or groups from obtaining effective health