from the American Cancer Society
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American Cancer Society Addresses Disparities Among Blacks, Latinos and Asians During National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, April 17-23, 2006
Society will offer screenings and awareness programs throughout New York region
NEW YORK (April 6, 2006) – Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans have higher risks, incidence and mortality rates than whites for certain kinds of cancers. During National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, April 17 - 23, the American Cancer Society will put an added emphasis on the cancer burden in these communities with free cancer screenings, education programs and bilingual information throughout the New York metro area. Some of the week’s events include: Body and Soul celebrations in churches throughout the region; screenings for breast and prostate cancers in healthcare and mobile facilities; health fairs and discussions of the burden of cancer on Hispanics; health insurance enrollment; and cancer workshops in Asian-American communities. Although these activities are being highlighted during National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, the American Cancer Society is committed to reducing disparities and increasing access to healthcare throughout the year. “Economic, social and cultural factors all play a role in creating cancer disparities,” said Alfred R. Ashford, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division. “The American Cancer Society is committed to helping communities of color, the medically underserved and all patients, survivors and caregivers overcome these disparities not only during National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, but the whole year through.” American Cancer Society data shows some ethnic groups face certain obstacles or challenges that prevent them from getting adequate health care. Others experience more cases of certain types of cancer. Members of racial and ethnic minority groups often have less access to early detection methods and high quality treatment, which denies them the advantage of existing cancer advances - such as colorectal cancer tests. The American Cancer Society has made colon cancer a major priority because of the enormous opportunity to save lives through prevention and early detection. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States with over 55,000 deaths expected this year.
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The overwhelming majority of cases occur in people 50 and older. Black men and women have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer, which is largely preventable by following American Cancer Society screening guidelines. This year, Al Roker, Today Show co-anchor and America’s weatherman, has teamed up with the American Cancer Society as an advocate for cancer prevention and early detection. Roker has recorded a public service radio announcement to encourage colon cancer testing for anyone 50 or older but especially for blacks. “African Americans need to be especially concerned about colon cancer because we are at high risk for the disease,” says Roker. “But the good news is, colon cancer is one form of cancer that can be prevented through testing. If I can get tested in front of millions of tv viewers on the Today Show, you can be tested in the privacy of your own doctor's office. It's not nearly as bad as you think it is and it's worth it because it could save your life. If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about your testing options." “The unequal burden of cancer in minority and ethnic communities includes higher risk of developing cancer, poorer chances of early diagnosis, less than optimal treatment and, ultimately, lower survival rates,” added, Dr. Ashford, who also noted the following disparities:
Blacks are more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic population; Latinos experienced the highest invasive cervical cancer incidence rates of any group other than Vietnamese, and twice the incidence rates of non-Hispanic white women; Cancer is the leading cause of death for female Asian Americans. In fact, Asian-American females are the first American population to experience cancer as the leading cause of death. “Cancer disparities are more than just a question of genes or individual behavior,” concluded Dr. Ashford.
“Lack of access to information and care, environmental and lifestyle issues have all prevented ethnic and racial minorities from benefiting equally from recent improvements in cancer incidence and survival rates. We must address every one of these issues to ensure that all Americans receive the same quality of information and care.” The American Cancer Society works both independently and with other organizations to help create, change and influence public policies and legislation that can help reduce cancer disparities, such as better insurance coverage of cancer screening and treatment. New York City Council Member Robert Jackson, Chair of the Education Committee and Co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus stated, “extensive public education is the key to reaching those most at risk for cancer thus encouraging them to seek preventative health care. The Council supports the American Cancer Society’s efforts in the fight against cancer among the poor and underserved, as well as their development of culturally sensitive programs and services that appeal to traditionally underserved communities.” The Society has awarded $36 million dollars in research grants since 1999 targeted to the poor and underserved to help reduce the cancer burden faced by these populations.
The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. The American Cancer Society Eastern Division has 46 community-based offices, involving thousands of volunteers throughout NY and NJ. For 24-hour cancer information, the public can call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.