Patients seeking bone marrow donations to fight diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma will typically find a match within their family only 25 percent of the time; the other 75 percent of matches are made with compatible strangers.
That's where Be the Match comes in. This national registry of 9 million donors is one way those seeking marrow can find it.
But according to Be the Match spokesperson Donna Collins, the number of ethnic minorities in the registry is low. In fact, the likelihood an African American person has of finding a match who is willing and able to donate is 66 percent compared to 72 percent for Hispanics, 73 percent for Asians, 82 percent for American Indians and Alaskan Natives and 93 percent for Whites.
"Of the 9 million people in the national registry for Be the Match only 7 percent are African Americans, and there is a great need in the African Americans. But (the need) is not just for African Americans but minority communities," noted Collins adding that 10 percent of those in the registry are Hispanic; 7 percent are Asians and Native Americans represent 1 percent.
"Mixed race people have more complicate genes, noted Collins and represent about 3 percent of those in the registry," explained Collins.
According to the website blackbonemarrow.com, the more complex gene mixture African Americans possess makes finding a match more challenging.
Be the Match is also looking for donors and hold events year round to solicit interested people. Indivi-duals can also go to the organization website at bethematch.org, put in a zip code and find the next event.
Online registration is also available, and Collins says a kit will be mailed out.
The first step for potential donors between ages 18 and 60 is to visit the site and register. That is done by supplying a family history and returning a swab sample from inside your cheek. Then, if you are found to be a match, you must willing to donate marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.
Donating the latter is done through a non-surgical, outpatient procedure similar to donating platelets or plasma. Donating marrow is a surgical process that takes place at a hospital and required general or regional anesthesia.