Did you know that African Americans in the US are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer? If you are surprised, you are not alone. Recently we lost the actor Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer at age 43, and many were shocked, but it highlights the grim fact that black people are at greater risk of colon cancer. Let’s find out why such an otherwise healthy man may have succumbed to this disease.
Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States. During 2020 12% of colon cancer cases (18K) will be diagnosed in adults younger than age 50, whereas rates in older adults are dropping.
As for black Americans, 20% are more likely to get colon cancer than white Americans, and 40% are more likely to die.
Many wonder why this is the case. Some of the reasons include high risk factors, less access to health care including cancer detection and screening, less comprehensive insurance, and many times healthy foods.
Diet, Genetics, And Lifestyle
To drill down further as to why more black Americans are likely to die from colon cancer, the answers may come from diet, genetics, and lifestyle.
- The diet of many black individuals includes more animal fat and less fiber which are risk factors for colon cancer.
- Lifestyle factors include higher tobacco related illnesses, obesity, less physical activity, and lower intakes of Vitamin C and E all connected to developing colon cancer.
- Genetic factors include a high incidence of mutations in the KRAS gene. This affects a cell’s ability to repair errors in DNA which increases cancer growth.
Be Aware Of The Symptoms
See Southwest Diagnostic Center for Molecular Imaging if you have any of the following symptoms for more than a few days:
- Any change in bowel habits like constipation, diarrhea, or narrow stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in stool making it look dark brown or black
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling like you need to move your bowels, yet it is not relieved afterward
Screening, Early Detection, And Survival
The American Cancer Society recommends that those with a higher risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45. There are several screening tools available including at home kits and of course, colonoscopies.
A colonoscopy finds and removes any polyps before they can become cancerous. It can also find cancer early when it is still small and has not spread making it easier to treat and improve survival rates.