Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare related to Lung Cancer

by Aadhi Sivakumar
3 mins read

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to lead themselves to a healthy life. Multiple constitutional amendments state the equal rights of everyone regardless of race or ethnicity, however healthcare is not issued in these amendments. Compared with all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, African Americans are disproportionately affected by lung cancer, both in terms of incidence and survival. People of color are often forced to live in undesirable areas in which carcinogens are prevalent. Carcinogens are cancer-causing chemicals that are typically found in tobacco products and the burning of fossil fuels. In addition to the fact that they are unable to live in cleaner environments, these groups also receive less healthcare opportunities. People of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to white Americans because they are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment, and more likely to not receive any treatment. More than 29 million uninsured Americans are people of color, and research is clear that having health coverage impacts people’s medical care and ultimately their health outcomes. 

According to the American Lung Association, “ Black Americans were 18% less likely to be diagnosed early, 23% less likely to receive surgical treatment, 9% more likely to not receive any treatment, and 21% less likely to survive five years compared to white Americans”(State). Based on this data collected by the American Lung Association, we see that African Americans are less likely to proper healthcare prominently due to their economic status. This is similar in other racial groups including Latinos, Native Americans, etc. where instances of inadequate healthcare are present. Since people of color’s ability to healthcare is affected, there are many deaths which are resulted from lung cancer within people of color. The American Lung Association states that “Black men and women have the highest death tolls from lung cancer. Around 9,000 black men and 6,800 black women die from lung cancer, 12% less than Whites(Lung). Looking at this, one can infer that the death rate is higher for African Americans than whites due to the disparity in healthcare as Whites receive more healthcare opportunities than Blacks. Due to the prevalence in healthcare for Whites compared to racial and ethnic groups, Whites tend to have a higher health equity than these groups, which is unfair.

A major reason why this disparity in healthcare exists between people of color and Whites is because systematic racism is an issue in healthcare these days as do socioeconomics, environment, and culture. People of color tend to be poorer than Whites, thus causing them to not be able to afford proper healthcare. According to the Peter G Peterson foundation people of color made significantly less household income than whites, African Americans making about $30,000 less than Whites. Their salary is being used for taking care of their families such as providing shelter and food, and many of these families can’t afford healthcare. Since such racial groups make less income, healthcare is not as accessible to them. In addition to this, racial and ethnic groups often live in undesired communities which are filled with more harmful particles than White communities. According to the National Academy of Sciences which stated that “Scientists calculate that Hispanics on average breathe in 63 percent more of the pollution that leads to heart and breathing deaths than they make. For African-Americans, the figure is 56 percent”(Borenstein). We see that racial groups facing more severe health conditions are too poor to afford proper healthcare, thus leading to more health-related problems such as lung cancer. Overall, these racial groups are experiencing more problems in lung cancer due to their poor living conditions and healthcare.


As clearly shown throughout this blog, racial disparities in healthcare are a major issue which is affecting the survival rates for people in color. Addressing racial disparities in health care coverage is critical to addressing racial disparities in lung cancer care. Currently, states are working their way to pass laws stating free healthcare access for all. We can work further into solving this issue by giving to these communities and helping them so they can receive proper healthcare.

Work Cited

Borenstein, Seth. “Blacks, Hispanics Breathe More Pollution than They Make.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 11 Mar. 2019, https://apnews.com/article/health-ap-top-news-air-pollution-hispanics-pollution-f6bf2f47c81c4958811dc4e99d526197.

“Lung Cancer’s Impact on Black Men and Women.” Lung Cancer’s Impact on Black Men and Women, American Lung Association, https://www.lung.org/getmedia/87a67675-a8ff-450f-bc82-f9a4631c84cd/infographics-lung-cancer-and-black-men-final.pdf.

“State of Lung Cancer: Racial and Ethnic Disparities.” State of Lung Cancer | Racial and Ethnic Disparities | American Lung Association, American Lung Association, 26 Nov. 2021, https://www.lung.org/research/state-of-lung-cancer/racial-and-ethnic-disparities. 

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