Black women at greater risk of dying from uterine cancer

Dr Esther Moss (left) and Dr Natalie Darko

Women in Black ethnic minority groups are at greater risk of dying from uterine, (womb) cancer, latest data shows. 

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlight those in Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean, or African ethnic groups having a substantially higher mortality rate compared to other ethnic groups in England and Wales.

The data showed that between 2017 and 2019, the rates of uterine cancer deaths in females from Black African or Black Caribbean ethnic groups were more than twice that of women who were white, when accounting for differences in age of the populations. 

Now Dr Natalie Darko, Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Director of Inclusion at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, working with Dr Esther Moss, Associate Professor in Gynaecological Oncology in the University of Leicester’s Cancer Research Centre, and Dr Lucy Teece, Lecturer in Medical Statistics from the Department of Population Health Sciences, have highlighted the alarming discrepancy in Lancet Oncology.

Their commentary highlights the need to raise the profile of uterine cancer, its common symptoms and barriers that patients may experience, which can lead to a delay in diagnosis. 

Dr Moss, who is also a consultant gynaecologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “Vaginal bleeding following the menopause is the major red flag symptom, but any abnormal bleeding should not be ignored. Also, we need to dispel the misconception that a cervical smear test result excludes all gynaecological cancers, since a negative result can create false reassurance and potentially delay a trip to the GP.”

Dr Darko said that inequities in provision and lack of trust in the healthcare system was another contributing factor with 78% of Black women in the UK not believing that their health was as equally protected by the NHS compared to white women.

She said: “Our hope is that publication of the ONS data will raise the alarm of the issue of Black women and uterine cancer so that increased awareness of these inequities can start to reverse the association of late diagnoses and worse outcomes.

“These findings underscore the critical importance of identifying women at highest risk, and ensuring that every woman, regardless of her race or ethnicity, has access to the care and resources she needs to prevent and treat uterine cancer.”