Graph showing percentage of clinical oncologists, ASCO members, and all specialists by race and ethnicity.

Current Oncology Landscape

  • In 2016, approximately 12,100 physicians delivered hematology and medical oncology to patients with cancer across the United States.
  • The median age of oncologists engaged in patient care is 51, and those age 64 years and older (18.4%) outnumber the 13.3% of oncologists younger than 40 years.
  • In addition, nearly one-third (32%) of oncologists are women, according to ASCO’s 2017 State of Cancer Care in America report.
  • It is estimated that by 2030, the cancer incidence in the U.S. will increase by 45%. The largest increase of cancer diagnoses is projected to be among the older adult and minority populations (Smith et al, Future of Cancer Incidence in the United States, JCO. 2009).

Underrepresentation of Minority Physicians

  • The physician workforce continues to struggle with adequate representation of racial and ethnic minorities, with hematology and oncology lagging in medicine in general.
  • According to the most recent census, 13% of the U.S. population is Black or African American and 18% is Hispanic. In contrast, only 2.3% practicing oncologists self-identified as Black or African American and 5.8% practicing oncologists self-identified as Hispanic.
  • In addition, only about 11% of medical students are Black/African American or Hispanic, according to "Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2016," a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Individuals from populations underrepresented in medicine are even more underrepresented in oncology than in fellowship or residency programs in general. 

ASCO Workforce Information System (WIS)

In an effort to obtain a full picture of the oncology workforce, ASCO is collecting in-depth data through the ASCO Workforce Information System (WIS). The WIS provides a mechanism for ongoing data collection and reporting on the current status of the oncologist workforce. Specifically, the WIS provides a mechanism for assembling the latest available data on oncologist supply and cancer incidence and prevalence.

Minority physicians have a greater tendency than non-minority physicians to practice in communities designated as physician shortage areas, according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. According to the AAMC report, Hispanic or Latino medical students are increasingly interested in practicing medicine in underserved communities, with interest increasing from 33% in 2005 to 39% in 2015. A diverse physician workforce also brings increased cultural competency and engenders trust and comfort in patients. Therefore, recruiting oncologists from diverse backgrounds provides increased and improved clinical oncology care to underserved communities.