Communities of Color at Higher Risk of Lung Cancer in New Jersey and Nationally

Michael Seilback is national assistant vice president for public policy, American Lung AssociationMichael Seilback is national assistant vice president for public policy, American Lung Association

TRENTON, NJ (SBN) — New Jersey residents of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to whites, even though New Jersey is among the best (in top 5 in nation) for percent of lung cancer cases still alive five years after diagnosis (ranking 5 out of 45 states measured) and for cases undergoing surgery as first course of treatment (ranking 5 out of 49 states), according to the 2021 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association.

The report reveals that the lung cancer five-year survival rate increased 14.5% nationally to 23.7% yet remains significantly lower among communities of color. In fact, while the national lung cancer survival rate increased, it remains at only 20% for communities of color and 18% for Black Americans. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Here in New Jersey, Black Americans are 33% more likely than white Americans to receive no surgical treatment for lung cancer; and Latinos are 16% more likely to receive no treatment.

Michael Seilback, national assistant vice president of state public policy for the Lung Association, spoke with SBN News Director Steve Lubetkin about the report.

The report found that New Jersey ranked:

  • 15 in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 55 per 100,000. Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence is 57.7 per 100,000.
  • 5 in the nation for survival and among the top at 27.5% (an 18% improvement in past 5 years). The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%.
  • 15 in the nation for early diagnosis at 25.6% – a 48% improvement over past 5 years. Nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
  • 41 in the nation, and among the worst for lung cancer screening at 3%. Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 5.7% of those at high risk were screened.
  • 5 in the nation, and among the top 5, for surgery at 25.7%. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.7% of cases underwent surgery.
  • 32 in the nation for those diagnosed that did not receive any form of treatment at 22%. Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment. There are multiple reasons why patients may not receive treatment after diagnosis. Some of these reasons may be unavoidable, but no one should go untreated because of lack of provider or patient knowledge, stigma associated with lung cancer, fatalism after diagnosis or cost of treatment.
  • In New Jersey, Black Americans are 33% more likely to receive no treatment than white Americans at 27.8% vs. 20.9% respectively. Latino Americans are 16% more likely to receive no treatment (24.4%) than white Americans.

While the “State of Lung Cancer” report findings show significant work to be done, there is hope. In March of 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendation for screening to include a larger age range and more current or former smokers. This dramatically increased the number of women and Black Americans who are eligible for lung cancer screening.

For current and former smokers, there are lifesaving resources available. Find out if you are eligible for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org, and then talk to your doctor about getting screened.

Learn more about “State of Lung Cancer” at Lung.org/solc.

About the Author

Steve Lubetkin
Steve Lubetkin is the news director for StateBroadcastNews.com. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. In May 2019, he began anchoring and reporting for the new weekly podcast, "The CRE News Hour," a news and features program focusing on the commercial real estate industry. From 2014 to 2019 he was New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com and filled in covering Chicago/Midwest and Atlanta. He has won numerous awards for his audio and video news reporting from the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced audio podcasts on CRE topics for the NAR Commercial Division and the CCIM Institute. Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for CEOReport.com, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies. Steve also reports on-camera and covers conferences for NJSpotlight.com, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of StateBroadcastNews.com, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC. In March 2021, he was elected to the board of directors of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996. Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional. You can email Steve at steve@statebroadcastnews.com.