A multitude of factors contribute to disparities in lung cancer care, including sex, race, education level, income, geographic region, and access to care. “There are some systemic barriers that make it difficult for people to obtain equitable treatment by race and class in the United States,” regardless of the type of disease, according to Christopher Lathan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and Faculty Director for Cancer Care Equity. These disparities are exacerbated in lung cancer because socioeconomic status and race represent major determinants of smoking, the leading cause of the disease.
Although change has been slow, improvements in lung cancer disparities are beginning to emerge on several levels, particularly over the last 5 years. If we look at race, the most conspicuous and topical disparity based on recent events worldwide, lung cancer incidence and mortality have continued to steadily decline in the United States across all races, with diminishing gaps between white and black individuals (Figure 1).