By Candace Gwaltney
Dec. 8, 2022
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer mortality in the United States and disproportionately affects Black individuals. Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center physician-scientist Francesca Duncan, M.D., is determined to change that through her research on health disparities and lung cancer.
“Despite advances in early lung cancer detection through screening with low-dose CT scans, Black individuals continue to have the highest incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups affected by this disease,” Duncan explains.
“When I see my patients in clinic, I talk with them about disparities in lung cancer and risk factors pertaining to the development of this disease, because there are a lot of misconceptions around smoking and lung cancer,” she said. “The message I like to convey is that if you have lungs, you can develop lung cancer.”
Duncan’s research has shown that social determinants of health play a role in lung cancer incidence, treatment and mortality. She described social determinants of health as things within a person’s environment that contribute to the health of the individuals, such as having limited access to healthcare, growing up in poverty, education attainment, insurance status, and radon or secondhand smoke exposure.