Let’s try to make room for at least a little good news among all the political flotsam and jetsam littering the internet this week. The American Cancer Society has done its annual compilation of the numbers and announced that incidents of certain types of cancer were down in 2018. And not just down by a little, either. The biggest decreases have been among African-Americans, who typically do worse than whites. Of specific interest are the lung cancer numbers, where significant progress has been made. (ACA)
Cancer death rates have historically been higher for African Americans than for whites, but that gap has been narrowing over the past few decades. The overall cancer death rate is dropping faster in blacks than in whites, mostly in 3 cancer types: lung, colorectal, and prostate.
“Cancer Statistics for African Americans, 2019,” published in the American Cancer Society’s journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, along with its companion piece Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021, provides numbers on new cancer cases, deaths, survival, screening test use, and risk factors for African Americans.
The biggest drop registered was seen among African-American patients with lung cancer as compared to whites. The reason isn’t a mystery, either. Black smokers are quitting the habit a faster rate than whites and this trend has been in place for a few years. It’s also no coincidence that the practice of vaping has been on the rise at the same time. Increasing numbers of smokers have been able to quit by switching to vaping.
And yet there are still states pushing to increasingly regulate vaping, to the point of treating it the same as tobacco. The FDA is getting in on the act as well, with restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes and menthol. I can understand some of the concerns driving these choices. One thing we definitely don’t want is teenagers who don’t smoke cigarettes taking up vaping and winding up addicted to nicotine. (And yes, we have to admit that this happens.)
But at the same time, taking current smokers and making vaping a less available option undercuts efforts to reduce smoking rates across the board. This isn’t a cut and dried question from either side of the debate and we shouldn’t pretend that it is. But vaping has, beyond question, provided a pathway for many smokers to quit after years of trying and failing. There’s got to be some middle ground where we can minimize the risk of creating a new generation of nicotine addicts while helping smokers break their habit.