Indians don’t get it. That is the long-standing belief regarding the American Indians of this country and cancer. Presently, however, confidence in this theory is waning. The incidence of cancer among American Indians is significantly higher than it was twenty years ago. Mortality rates among American Indians remain disproportionate to the US general population. Five-year cancer survivorship, though improving, is still the poorest of all racial groups in the US.
While this picture is presented bleakly, the insurgence of awareness and capacity to address cancer as a growing health concern among American Indian communities is greater than ever. Improved surveillance efforts have resulted in improved documentation of the cancer burden for American Indians.
According to a daily health policy report by the Kaiser Network Organization, overall, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a lower cancer related death rate compared to the general population, 161 per 100,000 verses 205 per 100,000, respectively. But in comparison, the rates to the American Indians living in the Northern Plains region have a much higher rate than the general population, at 292 per 100,000 people. Higher rates of lung, colon and prostate cancers in this area are double those in other American Indian Tribes, the report states (2).