National Minority Health Month is a time to call attention to cancer health disparities that adversely impact minority groups, which include—but are not limited to—people of color and people living in poverty.
According to the American Cancer Society, Hispanic women are more likely to get cervical cancer and African-American women are more likely to die from cervical cancer than white, non-Hispanic women. Asian American and Pacific Islander men and women have the highest rates of liver cancer in the U.S., and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports 1 in 5 (20 percent) African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Regardless of race or ethnicity, people of low socioeconomic status have excessively higher cancer death rates than people of higher socioeconomic status.
Most minority groups are at an increased risk of getting and/or dying from cancer due to social, economic and environmental disadvantages that make living a healthier life difficult; these conditions are often referred to as social determinants of health. The “social determinants of health” are conditions in the places you live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. For example, if your neighborhood doesn’t have stores that sell fresh, healthy food, or if these foods are beyond your budget, it would be difficult to eat a healthy diet. People who lack knowledge on cancer prevention may not know or understand how behaviors such as tobacco use, poor nutrition and an inactive lifestyle relate to cancer, and those without access to quality health care services won’t have access to routine cancer screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap tests.
The cancer burden for minority groups will not improve if we ignore social determinants of health. Healthy communities require adequate resources and safe environments for people to reduce their cancer risk. The theme for this year’s National Minority Health Month is Partnering for Health Equity. The old saying “It takes a village” also holds true for improving health equity; everyone has a role in promoting social justice to ensure all people, regardless of circumstance, have a fair shot at being healthy. You can help improve health equity in your community by volunteering at a local food bank, starting a community garden, hosting a neighborhood walking group or sharing the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Seven Steps to Prevent Cancer with people you know. Take action today to improve health equity, so everyone has the opportunity to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!®