Minority Cancer Awareness Week, an annual national observance, is April 15-21 and is intended to highlight the disparities in cancer survival for minorities.
“Cancer is a complex disease and affects different races and ethnicities in different ways,” said Julie Glover, Director of Health Initiatives for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society. “As examples, African American men die from prostate cancer at twice the rate of white men while Hispanic women are diagnosed with cervical cancer at a rate almost two-thirds greater than white women. Cancer has a unique impact on different races and ethnicities.”
There are many factors that influence the health of minority populations. Glover said, “The health disparities gap for minorities has persisted for years with little change. Multiple factors contribute to health disparities and overcoming this challenge will require comprehensive solutions.”
Higher poverty rates in minority populations also mean that health insurance is less available and that cancers are detected at later stages. Despite the steady overall decline in cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States, disparities in the cancer burden continue to exist among certain racial/ethnic groups and the medically underserved.
Minority Cancer Awareness Week is an opportunity to continue to raise awareness about the unequal burden of cancer and to promote cancer prevention and early detection. About fifty percent of cancer deaths can be prevented through regularly scheduled screenings, healthy eating, regular physical activity and quitting tobacco products.
Disparities in access to cancer care and in the overall burden of cancer are due to a complex set of factors. There are challenges in navigating health care systems and inequities in availability of cancer prevention, early detection testing and high-quality treatment. Poverty is a major factor for differences in cancer status and outcomes.
People with lower socioeconomic status are more likely to engage in behaviors that increase cancer risk, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity and a poor diet. Socio-cultural factors and environmental inequities also contribute to documented cancer disparities.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society.
The organization works with its more than three million volunteers to save lives and create a world with more birthdays by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by working to find cures, and by fighting back against the disease. The five-year survival rate is now 68%, up from 50% in the 1970s.
Thanks to this progress, more than 11 million cancer survivors in the U.S. will celebrate another birthday this year. For more information, visit cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.