Cancer Rates in Washington, DC

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States andit is estimated that 562,340 Americans will dies of cancer in 2009 (1). Between 2001 and 2005, the District of Columbia ranked 6th highest in the nation for cancer deaths, third highest in the nation for colorectal cancer deaths, and first in the nation for deaths due to prostate, cervical, and breast cancers (2).

Cancer mortality rates in DC from 2001-2005, per 100,000(1)


District of Columbia

Men 234.4 275.7
Women 159.9 169.4

Since 1975, cancer deaths among African Americans have remained consistently higher than among whites, and in 2005 the cancer death rates were 33% higher for African American men and 16% higher for African American that for whites (3). Consistent with previous years, in 2008 African Americans residents of the District were more likely to develop all cancers and more likely to be diagnosed after the cancer had metastasized, or spread to regional or distant sites, than persons of other racial/ethnic groups (2).

Cancer mortality rates for 2005, per 100,000 (3)

  Whites African Americans
Mortality 224.1 182.7

Scientific evidence suggests that several lifestyle factors including tobacco, obesity, and physical inactivity are linked to various cancers including breast, prostate, lung, and colon. The American Cancer Society estimates that smoking accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths, and 87% of lung cancer deaths (1). Recent statistics show that 24.1% of African Americans who are residents of the District of Columbia are at risk for developing tobacco-related illnesses such cancer, compared to 21.6% nationally (2).

Similarly, the American Cancer Society reported that about one-third of the cancer deaths each year are related to poor nutrition, lack of physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese, and thus could be prevented (1).Recent data shows while District residents overall are more likely to consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day than the national average, that African Americans and Hispanics were less likely to do so than their white counterparts (2). In 2007, almost twice as many African Americans and Hispanics in the District were at risk health problems such as cancer because of being overweight, as compared to Whites. Additionally, over half of African Americans and Hispanics failed to meet the recommended guidelines for moderate exercise, as compared to a third of Whites (2).

Incidence of risk factors for cancer in the District of Columbia (2)

  Whites Hispanics African Americans

Consumed less than 5 servings of fruits & vegetables per day

35.3% 28.8% 30.5%

At risk of health problems due to being overweight

39.3% 57.2% 68.8%

Failed to meet moderate exercise guidelines

33.3% 56.2% 54.7%

What is clear from the numbers and statistics above, is that too many Americans suffer from the burden of cancer each year. Many of these cases can be prevented - both nationally and in metropolitan DC. The efforts at Lombardi seek to advance our knowledge of cancer to reduce the incidence and mortality of these diseases. However, we place a strong emphasis on working to address the causes that lead to the cancer disparities of minorities here in DC.

For more information about these efforts, please visit the Health Disparities Initiative homepage.

Reference List
  1. American Cancer Society (2009). Cancer Facts & Figures 2009.
  2. American Cancer Society (2008). South Atlantic Divison Cancer Facts & Figures 2008.
  3. American Cancer Society (2009). Cancer Facts and Figures for African Americans 2009-2010.