Working to Reduce the Burden of Cancer for African-Americans

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African-Americans die of cancer at much higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Cancer's toll on African-Americans is particularly high for cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, female breast, prostate and cervix.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 152,900 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and 62,780 cancer deaths will occur among African-Americans annually. In Texas, African-Americans' cancer mortality rates are 38% higher for men and 22% higher for women, compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

The reasons behind African-Americans' higher rates of cancer occurrence and death are still largely unknown. Large cancer prevention studies, which can help identify specific risks for different populations, often have very low participation from minority communities. This limits the ability of researchers to understand whether the risks that are found for the entire population are the same for specific groups, such as African-Americans.

To reduce the burden of cancer in the African-American community, researchers and the community need to join forces to conduct focused research and to promote activities that will reduce cancer risks. Effective cancer prevention activities for African-Americans need to take into account not just their social situation and the environment they live in, but also their life priorities and concerns.

The African-American Cancer Prevention Project (AACPP) is a collaborative study between the Department of Health Disparities Research and Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, home to the largest African-American Methodist congregation in the United States. This type of study, known as a cohort study, follows healthy individuals over time to see how behavioral, social and environmental factors (such as weight management, cigarette smoking, cancer screening, health care, work and financial issues, neighborhood environment and mental health), contribute to cancer risk for African-Americans.

To date, 1,500 individuals have been enrolled in the study and they will be followed for three years, receiving periodic health assessments, as well as programs and services designed to address concerns such as stress, smoking, and exercise and fitness. Participants also receive help to navigate health and cancer screening and treatment services.  

Open and continuous communications, a lengthy history of community support and the full backing of church leaders have enabled the study to successfully reach its recruiting goals on time. Information gathered from the study will help to increase our understanding and ability to assess cancer risks in African-Americans, as well as identify areas that both M. D. Anderson and the community can focus on to reduce the burden of cancer for African-Americans.

Other Resources
Minorities and Health Disparities (CDC)

African American Health (MedlinePlus)

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