Every April the American Cancer Society and other organizations work together to raise awareness about cancer among minorities in honor of National Minority Health Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, celebrated this year April 15-21.
Cancer affects different populations differently, and minority groups in the United States continue to bear a greater cancer burden than whites. Much of this difference is due to factors like poverty and lack of access to prevention/detection services and high-quality treatment, according to a report in Cancer Facts & Figures 2013, a yearly American Cancer Society publication. For instance, African Americans and Hispanics in the US have higher poverty rates than whites and are less likely to have health insurance, making it harder for them to get the care they need.
So far this year the American Cancer Society has awarded 18 national research grants totaling more than $17.4 million to help improve access to cancer screening and treatment as well as quit-smoking programs. In addition, the Society is striving to enroll people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds in its landmark Cancer Prevention Study 3, a long-term study that will shed light on how lifestyle factors affect cancer risk and help us understand what to do to help prevent cancer.
Earlier studies like this one have helped us learn about some of the things everyone can do to help reduce their cancer risk or improve their chances of beating the disease if they do get it.
1. Get regular cancer screening tests.
Regular screening tests can catch some cancers early, when they’re more treatable. With a few cancers, these tests can even prevent cancer from developing in the first place. Talk with your doctor about the tests for colon, lung, prostate, breast, and cervical cancers.
2. Control your weight.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for many cancers, including breast, colon, uterine, esophageal, and kidney cancer. You can control your weight by exercising regularly and eating more healthfully.
3. Exercise regularly.
Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, getting regular exercise is important. Physical activity has been shown to lower the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and advanced prostate cancer. It also reduces the risk of other serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The Society recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week.
4. Eat healthfully.
Eat at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables (including legumes) and fruits each day. Choose whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals over those made from refined grains. Eat less processed meat such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs. Substitute ﬁsh, poultry, or beans for red meat (beef, pork, and lamb). Bake, broil, or poach meats rather than frying or charbroiling.
5. Stop smoking.
Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, and accounts for some 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.