Over the last decade, the field of cancer disparities research has grown exponentially. The American Association for Cancer Research® (AACR) launched the AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report to Congress and the American public in 2020 with the overarching goal of increasing awareness of cancer disparities and emphasizing the vital importance of cancer disparities research to saving lives. This third edition of the biennial report captures the progress that has been made to understanding and addressing cancer disparities and highlights the areas that need more work to achieve health equity.

As comprehensively covered in the report, the increased focus on the science of cancer disparities is helping to bridge gaps in our knowledge of the causes of cancer disparities. We are also gleaning better insights into the burden of cancer in various US population groups who experience cancer disparities. Evidence presented in the report paints a complex picture of factors that drive cancer disparities and underscores how multipronged approaches are vital to address cancer disparities.

It is abundantly clear that racism, discrimination, and injustices perpetuated against marginalized US population groups over centuries are key causes of cancer disparities. Dismantling of systemic and societal inequities is essential to ensure that everyone has equitable opportunities for upward economic mobility, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientations, gender identities, geographic location, and/or socioeconomic statuses. As the world’s first and largest organization focused on preventing and curing all cancers and whose core values include diversity, equity, and inclusion, AACR stands in solidarity with the medical research community in the fight against racism, privilege, and discrimination in all aspects of life.

It is also clear that equitable access to quality health care can help mitigate many of the disparities that exist across the cancer care continuum. The report also identifies evidence-based interventions that incorporate culturally sensitive community engagement and patient navigation as some of the most effective approaches to addressing cancer disparities. Strategies that improve communications and build trust between patients and providers are additional ways that are proving helpful in reducing cancer disparities. Finally, a key takeaway from the report is that documenting comprehensive sociodemographic data as well as disaggregated health records is essential to fully capturing the extent of cancer disparities in various US population groups.

Based on the evidence presented, and as underscored by cancer survivors from all walks of life who shared their experiences for the report, continued transformative research and increased collaborations across the medical research community are key strategies for addressing cancer disparities. To this end, the AACR Call to Action lays out a comprehensive framework and offers the organization’s unequivocal support to our policymakers to develop policies that maintain a sharp focus on prioritizing cancer disparities research. Much of the progress made against cancer disparities has stemmed from the steadfast and bipartisan support from Congress. By continuing to provide robust, predictable and sustainable funding for innovative cancer disparities research, Congress can ensure that we achieve the bold vision of health equity.

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