To examine secular trends in incidence rates for the cancer types most strongly associated with alcohol in African Americans (blacks) and whites.Methods
Average annual age-standardized incidence rates (ASIRs) for years of diagnosis 1973–1975 through 2000–2002 were analysed for squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity pharynx, oesophagus and larynx in U.S. blacks and whites by sex, using data from a group of high-quality population-based cancer registries. Also examined were National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) results on prevalence of current drinking and cigarette smoking among the U.S. population, and U.S. age-standardized mortality rates for alcoholic liver disease-damage from 1979 to 2003.Results
In 1973–1975, ASIRs were greater in blacks than whites for cancers of the oesophagus and larynx but not oral cavity pharynx, and peaks in the disparity reached in the 1980’s were followed by declines except for laryngeal cancer (the cancer most strongly associated with tobacco). By 2000–2002, black–white disparities in ASIRs were highest for oesophagus (black/white ratio 4.3 for males and 2.9 for females) but lower for laryngeal cancer and small or non-existent for oral cavity pharynx. NHIS data showed that by the 1970s the U.S. black/white ratios of prevalence were slightly > 1.0 for current smoking but 0.9 (and 0.7 by 1997 and 2003) for current drinking. Disparities in alcoholic liver disease had disappeared by 2003.Conclusions
Further declines in black–white disparities in cancer rates may occur (allowing for lag times), but the larger disparities for oesophageal cancer support the need to explore etiologic factors interacting with alcohol that continue to differ in prevalence between blacks and whites.