Research and outreach
Our researchers are dedicated to understanding and working to eliminate disparities and improve outcomes for everyone.
Cancer disparities determinants
From cells to society, from discovery to delivery
Cancer affects different people differently. Researchers and clinicians in UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Population Sciences and Health Disparities Program are dedicated to understanding why, and are working in different ways to eliminate disparities and improve outcomes for everyone.
A closer look at disparities:
Reasons why we focus on cancer disparities
- For all cancers combined, the death rate is 25 percent higher for African Americans/blacks than for whites.
- White women have the highest incidence rate for breast cancer, although African American/Black women are most likely to die from the disease.
- Hispanic/Latino women have the highest cervical cancer incidence rate.
- African American/Black men have the highest incidence rate for prostate cancer in the United States and are more than twice as likely as White men to die of the disease.
- Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest incidence rates for both liver and stomach cancer and are twice as likely to die from these cancers as Whites.
- American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher incidence and death rates for kidney cancer than other racial/ethnic groups.
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.”
These population groups may be characterized by age, disability, education, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, income, or race.
Understanding disparities between different populations
Asian-Americans have disproportionately high rates of liver cancer and liver cancer mortality. Christopher Bowlus, professor and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, is working to understand why Laotian and Hmong individuals infected with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) — the principal risk factor for liver cancer among Asian-Americans — have higher mortality rates than HBV-infected Chinese and Vietnamese. Bowlus is studying viral factors and immune responses in Asian-Americans, which he believes may cause an earlier onset and more aggressive form of liver cancer. Better understanding of the biologic basis of disparities in liver cancer survivors among Asian-American ethnicities could help clinicians better assess a patient’s risk for liver cancer and could lead to new approaches to treatment.
A Mother's Wisdom
Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater, who leads the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Outreach Research and Education Program, works with an American Indian advisory group to respond to high breast cancer mortality in the population.
Consistent cervical cancer screening equalizes incidence rates for Latinas
Latinas have the highest cervical cancer rates in the United States because of disparities in cervical cancer screening. Lydia Howell, professor and interim chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, found that when women participate in a program providing consistent cervical cancer screening resources, incidence rates among Latinas are no different than among other groups.
EMPaCT focuses on models to increase minority participation in clinical trials
Minorities make up an increasing percentage of the U.S. population, yet Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans continue to be under-represented in cancer clinical trials. A new research program entitled EMPaCT (Enabling Minority Participation in Clinical Trials) unites disparities experts from five NCI-designated cancer centers around the country to find models to increase minority recruitment into trials.