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Deaths From Cancer Declining Slower for Blacks

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Reduced smoking and early detection a sign cancer deaths are on the decline

By Rory O’Sullivan

“We’re winning the war on cancer,” stated Dr. John Morgan Member of the American Cancer Society of the Inland Empire Community Council.

The overall death rate from cancer in the United States declined 20 percent in 2009 from its peak in 1991 according to the Society’s annual cancer statistics report.

Death rates also are declining for the four major cancers: lung, colon, breast, and prostate. The drops are primarily due to reductions in smoking and improvements in early detection and treatment according to Dr. Morgan.

The story is not the same in the African American community, where cancer rates and deaths from cancer are higher than their counterparts.

“The numbers are higher for African Americans than what you would expect them to be,” said Morgan. “We don’t know why.”

He said a tremendous amount of research is going into finding the answers but they have not found any yet.

Phyllis Clark CEO of Healthy Heritage Movement Inc. said many blacks don’t have the information they need to prevent cancer or what to do if they do get the disease.

“We need to do a better job of getting information to the community,” said Clark.

Clark has been active leaving pamphlets in churches and hosting support groups for women who have cancer and is involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

She is also working at the policy level to add a dollar sales tax to cigarettes, which she said is a major factor in getting cancer. “Drive down a street in the inner city and you will see cigarettes,” said Clark. "We need to make sure cigarettes are not readily available."

Morgan agrees that smoking is a major factor in getting cancer.

“If you’re smoking quit now,” said Morgan.

He also added a need for increased early detection screening and health care access.

The study projected a total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths occurring in the United States in 2013.

Over the past two decades, death rates have decreased nationwide from their peak by more than 30 percent for cancers of the colon, female breast, male lung, and by more than 40 percent for prostate cancer. Between 1990/1991 and 2009, cancer death rates decreased by 24 percent in men and 16 percent in women.

Not all cancer death rates are going down, over the past decade, pancreatic cancer death rates have been increasing. Most pancreatic cancer patients will die within the first year of diagnosis, and just 6 percent will survive five years.

Almost all pancreatic cancer patients are older than 45. Symptoms range from dark urine, fatigue, a yellowing of skin color or eye color, and pain or discomfort in the upper part of the belly or abdomen.

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