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African Americans Cancer Care: Tips for Prevention and Treatment


As the American Cancer Society continues to study trends in cancer, they are finding that the risk of cancer in African American individuals is higher than in non-Hispanic whites. The most common cancers are prostate, lung and colon cancers in men and breast, lung and colon cancers in women.

Colon cancer is highly preventable with regular screening, but statistics show that the screening rate among African Americans is quite low. Take these facts into consideration:

  • There is a higher incidence of colon cancer among African Americans than any other racial group.
  • African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with young onset colon cancer.
  • African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage colon cancer.
  • The death rate from cancer is 17 percent higher in African Americans than in whites.

It is very clear that there needs to be an improvement in colon cancer prevention for African Americans. Researchers do not know exactly why the colon cancer incidence and mortality rate is higher among African Americans, but it may be because more African Americans are obese, sedentary, have poor nutrition and have lower socioeconomic status, which results in poorer health care (Source: Huffington Post).

Because African Americans are at higher risk for colon cancer, a baseline colonoscopy at age 45 (instead of 50) is recommended. The good news is that the gap of higher incidence and mortality rates among African Americans and whites is beginning to narrow. This is likely due to increased awareness, better health habits and more access to health care (thanks to the Affordable Care Act).

Here are some tips to prevent colon cancer and keep you healthy, regardless of race or ethnicity:

  1. Have health insurance. Prevention and early detection is only possible through the partnership of you, your primary care physician, specialists, and in-network healthcare facilities.
  2. Annual check-ups are important. Talk to your doctor about cancer prevention and appropriate screenings that will detect cancer early. Colonoscopies, mammograms and pap smears are just a few examples of cancer screenings that can save lives.
  3. Create healthy lifestyle habits. Maintaining a normal weight, avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, and eating a high-fiber and low-fat diet will prevent chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
  4. Know your own family history. Talk to your primary care physician about diseases and conditions that run in your family. Family history is especially important when it comes to colon cancer.  Anyone with a close relative who had colon cancer should be screened 10 years before the youngest age at which a relative was diagnosed.

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posted on December 2, 2016 in news