A recent analysis of lung cancer incidence in the United States suggests that a historic pattern of higher rates of lung cancer in the young Black population than in the young White population has reversed. The study was published in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

The study investigators analyzed nationwide lung cancer incidence data from the years 1997 through 2016 for Black and White adults younger than 55 years. Using 5-year age-specific lung cancer incidence data, they formulated Black-to-White lung cancer incidence rate ratios (IRRs). The investigators also calculate smoking prevalence ratios using data from between 1970 and 2016 from the National Health Interview Survey.

Age-specific lung cancer incidence trended downward for all populations across the study period, with this decline being more pronounced in the Black population. For men in the age group of 40 to 44 years who were born between the years of 1957 and 1972, the Black-to-White IRR changed from 1.92 (95% CI, 1.82-2.03) to 1.03 (95% CI, 0.93-1.13). For women, these rates shifted from 1.32 (95% CI, 1.24-1.40) to 0.71 (95% CI, 0.64-0.78) in the same period. One anomaly appeared among men born in the years 1977 to 1982, among whom lung cancer incidence was higher among Black men than White men.

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Smoking prevalence dropped across all populations over the years. Smoking rates were initially higher among Black men and women than in the White population. The biggest declines in smoking were seen in the Black population, with the greatest divergence over time seen in the decline in smoking among Black women relative to that of White women.

“Although these patterns herald progress in reducing racial disparities in lung cancer occurrence and the success of tobacco control in the Black community, the increasing lung cancer incidence rates in Black men born circa 1977-1982 is concerning and underscores the need for targeted tobacco prevention interventions,” wrote the study investigators in their report.


Jemal A, Miller KD, Sauer AG, et al. Changes in Black-White difference in lung cancer incidence among young adults. JNCI Cancer Spectr. Published online August 20, 2020. doi:10.1093/jncics/pkaa055