restricted access Head and Neck Cancer Disparity in Underserved Communities: Probable Causes and the Ethics Involved

Head and neck cancers are a cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the United States. For low-income, African American men they are one of the leading causes of excess cancer deaths: although all racial/ethnic groups suffer from these cancers, African American men disproportionately suffer and die from them. Low-income communities have increased risks for many adverse health conditions because of environmental factors and existing social determinants of health. These social determinants often lead to unhealthy life circumstances and ineffective coping behaviors. Early detection enhances effective treatment options, but such services are limited among African Americans, particularly African American men in underserved areas. Not addressing oral cancer because of these social conditions reflects unjust and unethical behavior by health care professionals. In Atlanta, one high-density, limited-resource area has the highest incidence of oral cavity cancers. Health Education, Assessment and Leadership (HEAL) was created to address the oral cancer incidence and prevalence, an example of a preventable health disparity between this underserved region and surrounding communities.