I think I knew it intuitively but seeing everyone in the audience Monday raise a hand to acknowledge that they had been personally affected by cancer was very telling. The experience of Iris and Rose in Trinity River Plays is played out in real life every day for thousands of African-American women and men. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States, and the statistics for people of color, especially in Chicago, are even worse as Drs. Polite and Peek pointed out. African Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. We get diagnosed later and often get poorer treatment once diagnosed. But we are not alone in this.
While African American men have a higher incidence – and are more likely to die from – prostate cancer, Asian Americans are most impacted by liver cancer. Hispanics have a higher rate of cancers associated with infection, such as uterine cervical, liver and stomach cancers. And death from kidney cancer is highest among native peoples/American Indians.
Here are 10 things you can do to reduce your risk (Thanks to the University of Chicago’s Urban Health Initiative for sharing these with us):
1. Quit Smoking – smoking is the leading cause of premature death in this country.
2. Use Sunscreen – skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, developing in almost one million people every year.
3. Exercise Regularly – physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast.
4. Eat Fruits and Vegetables – people whose diets are rich in fruits and veggies have a lower risk of getting mouth, throat, stomach and lung cancers.
5. Limit Red Meat and Animal Fat – diet accounts for up to 80% of cancers of the bowel, breast and prostate. And people who eat large amounts of red and processed meats are at greater risk of colorectal cancer.
6. Limit Alcohol Intake - heavy consumption is associated with elevated risk.
7. Know Your Medical History – family history of certain cancers may increase your risk.
8. Know Your Environment – almost 80% of all cancers have an environmental component.
9. Practice Safe Sex – HPV, the human papillomavirus, is a known cause of cervical cancer. It’s the most common STI in the US.
10. Get Screened - not knowing will kill you.