Save Black Lives With National Cancer Prevention Month
For African Americans, winter is the perfect time to prioritize their health and that of loved ones. Coming on the heels of New Year’s resolutions, February is not only Black History Month and American Heart Month, but National Cancer Prevention Month as well. Learning about the systemic health inequities and disproportionate medical risk factors that Black populations face is key for improving current and future health outcomes in your family and community. It’s also incredibly important to know your risk factors for cancer.
Here’s what Black Americans need to know about cancer prevention:
- Outside of COVID-19, cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in the US. The most common related deaths are attributed to breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. Yet over 40% of all cancers and almost half of all cancer-related deaths are caused by preventable lifestyle risk factors. You can help to prevent the deadliest forms of cancer by exercising regularly, avoiding smoking or excessive alcohol, and using sunscreen diligently.
- In addition to facing more systemic barriers to healthcare than their White counterparts, Black individuals receive recommended cancer screenings at a far lower rate as well. Black cancer patients have the shortest survival rate and highest death rate of any racial group. Because of this, being aware of family medical history, getting screenings, and reducing lifestyle risks is absolutely essential for African Americans.
- Black men are at twice the risk of developing prostate cancer compared with all other racial and ethnic groups. Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than White women, and the risk increases significantly in age groups over 50.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that everyone get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45. At the same age or a few years earlier, women should get screened for breast cancer, while men should get prostate cancer screening. Teen girls and women should additionally speak with their gynecologist about cervical cancer prevention.
In addition to living a healthy lifestyle, knowing your family history, and talking with your doctor about cancer screenings, it’s important to educate yourself and loved ones about cancer prevention. You can also support legislation and nonprofit organizations that work to improve health outcomes for African Americans.
A Good Prescription for the Health of Black Americans
The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) was formed in 2002 to respond to inequities in the healthcare delivery system and is dedicated to health equity and better health outcomes for people of color. African Americans suffer from health conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than other ethnic groups, and we believe these health disparities will continue to exist if we don’t take action.
AAWP serves as a trusted megaphone and provides culturally relevant tools, resources, information, and programming that encourage African Americans to advocate for themselves and protect their health, regardless of insurance status or other circumstances.