Cancer disparities are health inequities that span the full cancer continuum, across the life course. They involve social inequalities in the prevention, incidence, prevalence, detection and treatment, survival, mortality, and burden of cancer and other cancer-related health conditions and behaviors.

To address disparities in cancer, we are facilitating collaborations, mentoring investigators new to cancer disparities research, and disseminating research and knowledge about cancer disparities.

How do cancer disparities occur?

They may arise singly or in combination from various social forces — adverse working and living conditions, inadequate health care, as linked to experiences and policies involving socioeconomic position; for example, occupation, income, wealth, poverty, debt, and education. They also may arise from discrimination, both institutional and interpersonal, which can be based on race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position, gender, sexuality, age, language, literacy, disability, immigration status, insurance status, geographic location, housing status, and other relevant social categories.

In 2001, DF/HCC created the Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD) to provide a centralized and coordinated structure for addressing the complexities of cancer disparities – it was among the nation’s first integrated, inter-institutional, multi-pronged approaches.

As a centralized initiative, the IECD is transforming how member institutions work together, bringing intellectual and organizational resources to bear on cancer disparities issues. The IECD coordinates and complements the activities of each individual institution by providing an infrastructure for advancing community outreach, promoting disparities research, and raising awareness of and sensitivity to the impact of culture on the disease of cancer, medical decision-making, and care. Its activities permeate all seven DF/HCC member institutions, providing an unparalleled opportunity to eliminate cancer disparities.

To advance DF/HCC’s commitment to eliminating disparities across all levels of cancer research, clinical care, and institutional administration the IECD emphasizes six key areas:

  • Enhancing research on cancer disparities, particularly within disease-based programs
  • Supporting faculty diversity
  • Amplifying culturally competent care throughout DF/HCC institutions
  • Engaging diverse communities on the subjects of awareness, cancer prevention, and care
  • Facilitating the access of under-served populations to clinical trials
  • Creating training opportunities to attract and engage the best and brightest to careers in cancer research, treatment and care

When DF/HCC was established, its leaders recognized the need to increase innovative research in cancer disparities. At the time, each member institution had its own strategy for assessing patients’ racial/ethnic identity and addressing disparities, and each maintained independent relationships with the communities in which they served. A long-term, integrated effort was needed.

DF/HCC created the Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD), committing substantial faculty time and financial resources on an ongoing basis to the complexities of cancer disparities. As a centralized initiative, the IECD is transforming how member institutions work together, including how they address cancer disparities in underserved communities. The IECD overcomes barriers, improves understanding, and facilitates patient access to clinical trials. By bringing intellectual and organizational resources to bear on these issues, the IECD is emerging as a pivotal resource at DF/HCC.