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Cancer And Blacks


The tragic death of the Gravediggaz’s, Too Poetic, from colon cancer, got us to thinking about one of the worst legacies of slavery for Blacks– bad health. As we have written before, it is interesting how much focus reparations supporters, in the Black community give to the wages denied and wealth stolen from Blacks as a result of slavery and how little attention is given to the diseases and bad health that Blacks inherited as a direct result of slavery and the horrific diet given to Blacks, while in slavery. In our estimation, too few blacks consider our disproportionate health problems in terms of the peculiar institution of slavery, although a direct link is not difficult to establish.

As a light introduction to this subject that we will explore in greater depth in the future, here is some information from the American Cancer Society that deals with Blacks and Cancer. All we ask is that as you read it, you keep in mind the important questions of “Why?” Blacks suffer from cancer the way they do, as well as: “What is the true origin of this disproportionate affliction?”

From a June 23, 2000 American Cancer Society briefing, “The Unequal Burden of Cancer”

“...Cancer disproportionately strikes the African-American community. During 1999, approximately 63,400 African Americans died of cancer. As with many types of diseases, African-Americans tend to have a worse prognosis and decreased survival compared to whites. Cancer death rates among African Americans are the highest among all racial and ethnic populations in the United States. African Americans are about 33% more likely to die of cancer than whites, and are two times more likely to die of cancer than Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, And Hispanics

In 1999, the most commonly diagnosed cancers in African American men were prostate cancer (29%) followed by cancer of the lung (19%) and of the colon and rectum.(10%). African American men are at least 50% more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of any other racial and ethnic group. Commonly diagnosed cancers in African American women are breast cancer (30%0, followed by lung cancer (13%) and colon and rectum cancers (13%). Despite having lower cancer incidence rates than white women, African American women have the highest cancer mortality rate among the five racial/ethnic groups studied.

Many obstacles and barriers faced by African Americans contribute to an increased risk of cancer and poor health status. Among them are lack of health insurance coverage, underrepresentation in health care fields, and lack of access to primary and preventive care. Furthermore, the health disparities experienced by African-Americans are partly due to poverty, approximately 26% of African-Americans are poor.

Nearly two-thirds of all cancer deaths in the United States can be linked to tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity. Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of premature death and is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths. Moreover, approximately one-third of cancer deaths in the United States are attributable to dietary factors. For some cancers where screening tests are available, early detection with appropriate follow up treatment can be an effective way to increase survival and reduce cancer deaths and morbidity.

Among African Americans, several behavioral indicators suggest a population at risk. Obesity and lack of physical activity remain major health problems. Approximately 53% of African American women and 34% of African American men are overweight. Furthermore, the African American community has the highest percentage of (38.5%) of adults who report no leisure-time physical activity.

In 1995, approximately 47 million adults in the United States smoked, and of those about 5.7 million were African American. Tobacco use as seen among other racial and ethnic groups declined as education increased and between 1978-1995, the overall prevalence of cigarette smoking among African Americans declined from 37.3% to 26.5%. However, national data suggest that the prevalence of smoking among African American youth is on the rise. According to the 1997 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, cigarette smoking increased 8-% among African-American high school students from 12.6% in 1991 to 22.7%. Additionally, studies have documented targeted efforts by the tobacco industry to invest in community events and cigarette products that appeal to minority populations.

Low participation in cancer screenings is also a major contributing factor to poor health status and later stage cancer diagnosis among African Americans. In 1987, only 19% of African American women aged 50 and older reported having a mammography to screen for breast cancer within the past three years. By 1992, the proportion of African American women receiving mammograms grew to 50.4%. Increases have also been seen for clinical breast exams and Pap tests for cervical cancer. Despite these positive trends, the 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer among African-American women is only 71% compared to 87% among whites. Furthermore, approximately 16.4% of African-Americans report having no health insurance coverage, presenting a barrier to accessing cancer screenings.


Facts To Remember:

1) Among women younger than 50 years, African Americans are more likely to develop breast cancer than whites.

2) Prostate cancer will claim the lives of more than twice as many African American men than men of other racial and ethnic groups.

4) Overall, African Americans have the highest cancer death rates among any ethnic and racial population

5) More than one-third of African-American adults report no leisure time physical activity

6) Sixteen percent of African-Americans report having no health insurance coverage

7) African Americans are less likely than whites to survive cancer five years after diagnosis.



End of quote/reference of American Cancer Society


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, July 19, 2001

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