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J Cancer Educ. 1999 Spring;14(1):23-7.

The health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2. Lessons for cancer educators.

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Department of Educational Affairs, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA.


Malignant disease is largely unrecognized as a leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). Published studies of cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and cancer survival are highlighted to present an overview on the epidemiology of cancer among Native peoples. Cancer incidence and mortality have demonstrated steady increases among AI/ANs during a relatively limited time frame, as well as unique patterns of site-specific cancers. Cancer-survival data reveal that Native peoples have the poorest survival of any racial group for all cancer sites combined and for eight of the ten leading sites. Opportunities to educate health care providers, through continuing medical education programs and focused conferences for postdoctoral and current medical trainees, can be used to enhance cultural sensitivity and to examine ethnic differences in cancer patterns. Enhancement of recognition of the unique cancer patterns among AI/AN populations may lead to improved identification of at-risk individuals and more effective cancer screening programs within Native communities.

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