New York State Department of Health Recognizes Minority Cancer Awareness Week

Department is Highlighting Initiatives Aimed at Eliminating Inequities That Effect Cancer Outcomes

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 18, 2023) –The New York State Department of Health recognizes Minority Cancer Awareness Week, observed April 17-23, highlighting its dedication to eliminating disparities in cancer outcomes. Deep-rooted inequities such as racism, poverty, and limited access to quality and affordable healthcare create barriers to preventing, detecting, treating, and surviving cancer. The Department has engaged in a comprehensive effort to address and eliminate cancer disparities.

"Cancer leaves a tremendous emotional, physical, and economic toll on individuals and their loved ones," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Everyone deserves access to prevention, early detection, and adequate care to have a fair opportunity to live long and healthy lives. I am proud of the work that has been done in the State, and the Department remains committed to eliminating inequities to improve cancer outcomes for people of color."

The burden of cancer in New York is significant. Each year, over 118,000 New Yorkers learn they have cancer, and nearly 34,000 die from the disease. Rates of cancer diagnoses and poor cancer outcomes are strongly linked to existing health disparities relating to race and ethnicity. Some of these known disparities include the following:

  • Non-Hispanic Black males have by far the highest rates of prostate cancer incidence and mortality of any racial/ethnic group.
  • Cervical cancer incidence is higher among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women. Cervical cancer mortality is highest among non-Hispanic Black women.
  • Non-Hispanic Black individuals experience higher incidence rates of regional and distant stage disease for female breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer.
  • While non-Hispanic white women have the highest incidence rates of breast cancer, non-Hispanic Black women have the highest mortality rates, according to data on cancer incidence and mortality in New York.

While some disparities may reflect the underlying occurrence of the disease, the identification of groups with a disproportionate incidence of cancer may help to inform programmatic strategies for cancer screening.

The Department has launched several initiatives that address negative cancer outcomes that impact minority communities. In January 2023, the Department released two new funding opportunities aimed at addressing racial disparities in cancer. The first is titled, "Post-Treatment Support Services for Breast Cancer Survivors who are Black." This RFA will fund Community Based Organizations to provide programming for breast cancer survivors who are Black, who are in post-treatment, and with a priority to patients transitioning from active treatment to post-treatment. While programming will be prioritized and designed for breast cancer survivors who are Black, it may include other breast cancer survivors. Social networks play an essential role in improving survivorship outcomes by providing social, emotional, and tangible support with a sense of connectedness. Research suggests survivors who participate in support groups are less anxious and depressed, have improved social well-being, have more knowledge about their illness, and report improved quality of life. Yet not all cancer survivors have equal opportunities to participate in support groups. Cancer survivors who are Black report being reluctant to participate in mainstream support groups. This initiative aims to expand those services.

A second new initiative is titled, "Peer Education, Outreach, and Shared Decision Making for Persons at High Risk for Prostate Cancer." This initiative will fund not-for-profits to implement peer education and outreach, personalized coaching, linkage to community services to address barriers to health care, and referral to health care providers for prostate cancer screening. Activities will be directed to Black men, ages 45 to 69 years old who bear a disproportionately high burden of prostate cancer. Programming will address the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and will provide support to engage program participants in shared decision making about prostate cancer screening with a health care provider. Programming will be prioritized and designed for Black men, but may include others at risk of prostate cancer. Award announcements for both initiatives are anticipated in the Fall.

These efforts build upon the Department's nation-leading approach to relieving the cancer burden in New York. To better address health equity and improve cancer screening rates among populations less likely to be screened, in October, the Department launched a funding opportunity to award state grants totaling $41 million to 21 organizations to continue to run the long-standing, successful New York State Cancer Services Program. The grantees will cover every county and borough in New York and will focus their efforts on individuals who lack access to services. This RFA included a requirement that each grantee prioritizes community outreach activities to reach persons from populations disproportionately affected by cancer including, but not limited to, the following populations of focus: Black people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) people; and rural populations.

The New York State Cancer Consortium is a statewide network made up of more than 200 members from the public and private sectors whose missions are aligned with reducing cancer incidence and mortality. Consortium Action Teams come together to address some of New York's highest burden of preventable cancers, including colorectal cancer, cancers caused by the human papilloma virus, lung cancer, skin cancer, and health and wellness issues for New York's many cancer survivors. The Department is an active member, participating in the Consortium's Steering Committee, providing support to the committee and other Consortium work groups, and facilitating the development and evaluation of the New York State Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan.

The New York State Cancer Services Program provides free breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening to New Yorkers without insurance. If cancer is found, eligible New Yorkers can enroll in the New York State Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program to receive Medicaid coverage for cancer treatment.

Enrolling in health care coverage can improve access to medical care and reduce the risk of illness, including cancer. To enroll in health coverage or to find out about financial assistance to lower the cost of health coverage, contact the NY State of Health at 1-855-355-5777 (TTY: 1-800-662-1220) or visit Resources | NY State of Health.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have experienced delays in cancer screening because of temporary office closures, fear of getting COVID-19, and backlogged appointments. Delays in cancer screenings may lead to an increase in diagnosis at a later stage and deaths. New Yorkers who are overdue for cancer screenings are encouraged to reach out to a healthcare provider and schedule a screening.

To find a nearby screening location, visit New York's Cancer Services Program.

The New York State Cancer Registry and cancer statistics can be found here.

More information on cancer, including cancer types, prevention, treatment, and resources can be found here.