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This report highlights selected evidence of different cancer patterns among African Americans and whites and considers potential risk factors associated with these cancers. During the years 1987 to 1991, African Americans experienced higher incidence and mortality rates than whites for multiple myeloma and for cancers of the oropharynx, colorectum, lung and bronchus, cervix, and prostate. African Americans had lower incidence and mortality for cancer of the urinary bladder. The incidence of breast cancer was higher among white women, but mortality was higher among African American women. Five-year relative survival for the period 1983 to 1990 was generally lower among African Americans than whites for cancers of the oropharynx, colorectum, cervix, prostate, and female breast but slightly higher for multiple myeloma. From 1973 to 1991, there were significant declines in cervical cancer incidence among women of both races, oropharyngeal cancer mortality among whites, and bladder cancer mortality for whites and African Americans. Risk factors for the more prominent cancers suggest that efforts aimed at changing lifestyles, achieving socioeconomic parity, and insuring environmental equity are likely to relieve African Americans of much of their disproportionate cancer burden.