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Let’s talk about CANCER Culture! Black Americans have the highest death rate and lowest survival rates of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers. These numbers are also alarming when considering that about 42% of cancer cases and 45% of cancer deaths are preventable.

Cancer is a set of diseases resulting from abnormal cells’ uncontrolled growth. Death can result if these diseased cells’ spread cannot be controlled. According to the American Cancer Association, About 224,080 new cancer cases and 73,680 cancer deaths are expected to occur among Black people in 2022. The causes of cancer are not fully understood. We do know that many factors are known to increase risk. We also know that many risk factors are modifiable/preventable (Example:  tobacco use and excess body weight). Approximately 1 in 3 black people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. About 1 in 5 Black men and 1 in 6 Black women will die from cancer. This data is alarming. There is also concern regarding how COVID-19 will potentially increase health disparities amongst communities of color, including possible increased cancer diagnosis and cancer-related deaths due to disruptions in screening and treatment related to the pandemic. It will take years to understand the impact of COVID 19 in this regard.

This post will share eight ways cancer is impacting Black communities. This information and more data can be found on the American Cancer Society website https://www.cancer.org

  1. Black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the United States for most cancers. (Example: Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, despite lower incidence of the disease.
  2. The most commonly diagnosed cancers:
    • Black Men:  prostate, lung, and bronchus (lung), and colon and rectum (colorectal)
    • Black Women:  Breast, lung, and colorectal
    • These cancers account for more than half of all new cases among Black people.
    • The risk of being diagnosed with cancer increases with age because most types of cancer require many years to develop.
  3. Overall, Black men have 6% higher cancer incidence but 19% higher cancer mortality than White men, reflecting lower survival rates.
  4. Black women have 8% lower cancer incidence than White women, but 12% higher cancer mortality; which is partly driven by breast and uterine cancers, for which Black women have slightly lower or similar incidence but 41% and 97% higher mortality, respectively.
  5. Overall, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are potentially avoidable
  6. Structural Racism is an underlying source of health disparities among people of color. Structural Racism is discrimination perpetuated through interconnected institutions and reinforced through culture, history, ideology, and sanctioned practices.
    • One example of structural racism is redlining, a historically legal form of lending discrimination in which creditworthy applicants who lived in poor neighborhoods, usually with a large Black population, were refused loans for housing improvement and purchase.
    • This practice facilitated segregation by preventing Black people from gaining home equity and entering middle or upper class neighborhoods, and continues to influence health today.
    • Areas with historical redlining and/or current lending bias are associated with increased risk of late-stage cancer diagnosis and have 2 times higher breast cancer mortality rates than other areas.
    • Other discriminatory practices include the diversion from historically Black neighborhoods of public transportation, grocery stores, and public green spaces, all of which limits the availability of affordable healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.
    • Additionally, this environment increases the prevalence of chronic stress, infectious disease, and other exposures that contribute to poorer health.
  7. Access to health care influences the use of cancer prevention and early detection services (e.g., tobacco cessation counseling and cancer screening) and receipt of cancer treatment and survivorship care.
    • One of the largest obstacles to high-quality care is cost, which is exacerbated for Black people by disproportionately low insurance coverage. In the US, insurance coverage is closely tied to employment.
    • Black people generally have lower rates of cancer screening, likely related to less access to care and perhaps lower likelihood of physician recommendation and medical mistrust.
  8. Discriminatory practices and disproportionate poverty also contribute to a higher prevalence of other chronic diseases, which may increase cancer risk independently and/or through shared risk factors and reduce the likelihood of cancer survival. (Example:  Diabetes increases risk of cancer incidence and mortality, and is more common among Black people than any other racial/ ethnic group)

We encourage you to check out the American Cancer Society’s website for more information, www.cancer.orgThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health is also a great resource, https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/.

Another installment of melanated mail has been delivered. Ponder, reflect, and pass it on.