What does Black History Month have to do with cancer?

Black History Month is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the ways that Black people have shaped society and culture in the UK. It’s also about taking action against racism and working towards equality.

But why are we, as a cancer charity, talking about it?

The answer is that the experience of cancer treatment is not the same for every young person who needs it. Sadly, Black people with cancer can face bias and discrimination when accessing care. 

Research has found that: 

  • the average time between visiting a GP and being diagnosed with cancer is 61 days for a Black person. This wait is 11% longer than the average for a white person (Martins et al 2022)
  • Black people and people from other minoritised ethnic groups are more likely to have a delayed referral to hospital than white patients. Lyratzopoulos et al (2012) found that they were more likely to have visited their GP three or more times with suspected cancer symptoms before being referred
  • if a patient in the UK needs a stem cell transplant and doesn’t have a relative who’s a match, they are much more likely to find the best possible match from an unrelated donor if they are white. Research by Anthony Nolan shows that white patients have a 72% chance of finding the best match from an unrelated donor. For patients from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds, this drops to 37%
  • young cancer patients from a white ethnic background were more likely to say they were looked after very well compared to Black patients (Under 16 Cancer Patient Experience Survey, 2022).

We’re committed to making sure that every young person and family facing cancer gets the support they need. Find out how we’re working towards this in our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy.


Martins et al. 2022. ‘Assessing Ethnic Inequalities in Diagnostic Interval of Common Cancers: A Population-Based UK Cohort Study’. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/14/13/3085 

Lyratzopoulos et al. 2012. ‘Variation in number of general practitioner consultations before hospital referral for cancer: findings from the 2010 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey in England’. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22365494/ 

Anthony Nolan. ‘#JanYellStemCell’. https://www.anthonynolan.org/help-save-a-life/patient-appeals/current-appeals/janyellstemcell  

NHS England. 2022. ‘Under 16 Cancer Patient Experience Survey’. https://www.under16cancerexperiencesurvey.co.uk  

Author: Madeleine Horst

Posted on Monday 2 October 2023

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