This difference in cancer deaths is most likely due to a relationship between education and other factors directly associated with risks of developing and dying from cancer, such as smoking, cancer screening, and access to health care, the researchers speculated.
Although cancer death rates were higher among blacks than whites with the same level of education, they were almost the same for black and white men with zero to eight years of education, the researchers said.
"The difference between blacks and whites is most certainly due to socioeconomic conditions and access to care," Ward said.
Sholom Wacholder, an epidemiologist with the National Cancer Institute and author of an accompanying editorial in the journal, thinks the study findings account for some -- but not all -- cancer disparity rates between blacks and whites.
"I asked myself if I could use this data to figure out the difference between blacks and whites in cancer mortality," said Wacholder. "And the answer is that it is probably not possible."
The problem is that there are too many unanswered questions, Wacholder said. "We can't answer the question whether additional education by itself is the explanation or whether people with access to education have lower cancer mortality beyond the effect of education," he said.
For more on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., director, cancer surveillance, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Sholom Wacholder, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.; Sept. 11, 2007, Journal of the Nati
All rights reserved