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

The Current Landscape

As of 2011, there are 13,084 practicing oncologists in the United States, and the median age of oncologists is 52. In addition, more than a quarter (28.4%) of oncologists are female, according to the 2013 ASCO report "Tracking the Workforce: The American Society of Clinical Oncology Workforce Information System." Although some data is missing, it is estimated that the majority of oncologists are white (59%) and relatively few are African American or Hispanic (2007 Association of American Medical Colleges [AAMC] report, "Forecasting the Supply and Demand for Oncologists").

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. (Find out more about the workforce study on the ASCO Workforce Initiatives page).

Underrepresentation of Minority Physicians

According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians/Alaska Natives make up approximately 31% of the U.S. population. However, only about 17% of medical students are of these racial/ethnic backgrounds, according to an AAMC report titled, "Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012" (Table 6. U.S. Medical School Total Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity, 2002–2011). Individuals from populations underrepresented in medicine are even more underrepresented in oncology than in fellowship or residency programs in general. The proportion of black/African-American (3.1% in 2010) or Hispanic/Latino (7.5% in 2010) oncology fellows are consistently lower than the proportion of black/African-American fellows in internal medicine programs and many of the other internal medicine subspecialty fellowships (2013 ASCO report, "Tracking the Workforce: The American Society of Clinical Oncology Workforce Information System").

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).

Minority physicians have a greater tendency than non-minority physicians to practice in communities designated as physician shortage areas, according to a 2003 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. 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.