The American Cancer Society (ACS) is taking advantage of the celebration of Black History Month to raise awareness about the critical need for better access to quality cancer information, prevention, screening and treatment within the African American community.
"While we are making strides in our fight against cancer within the African American community, there is still much to do," said Carol Jackson, chair of the board of the American Cancer Society, California Division, Inc. "Although both the incidence and the death rates among African Americans for all cancers combined have declined, research continues to show that African Americans have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for most major cancers."
Much of these differences are believed to be due to factors associated with poverty, including reduced access to medical care; diagnosis at a later stage, when the disease has spread, and disparities in treatment. Death rates from prostate cancer are 2.4 times higher in African American men compared to white men; among women, breast cancer death rates are 1.4 times higher among African Americans than whites.
Despite its preventable nature, colorectal cancer continues to kill a disproportionate number of African Americans each year. Colon cancer incidence rates among African American men and women are about 17 percent higher than in white men and women, while mortality rates in African Americans are about 40 percent higher than in whites.
African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer than whites. African Americans have a decreased likelihood of surviving five years after diagnosis compared to whites for most cancer sites at all stages of diagnosis. The American Cancer Society already offers a host of programs and services, to foster and grow relationships with diverse and medically underserved communities.
Some of the programs the Society offers include:
Information - Through the Society's toll-free National Cancer Information Center (1.800.ACS.2345), callers can obtain information about cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, and can be linked with community resources. The Society's Web site (www.cancer.org) contains materials on African Americans and cancer.
Let's Talk About It® - Educates African American men about prostate health.
Look Good...Feel Better® - Includes cosmetic offerings for dark-skinned women.
Body & Soul - Designed as a nutritional program for African American churches in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.
In further support of the Society's goal to help reduce disparities, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN), the Society's sister advocacy organization, is working with Congress to enact legislation that will help increase access to quality cancer screenings and treatments for ethnic minorities and the medically underserved. Increasing funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and establishing a federal colorectal cancer prevention, early detection and treatment program are high priorities for ACS CAN. Other efforts include working with Congress to secure funding for the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and to provide resources needed to implement the Patient Navigator, Outreach and Chronic Disease Program passed in 2005, which will also improve access to quality care and health outcomes.
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. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.