The recent passing of Chadwick Boseman, the talented actor best known for his portrayal of the superhero Black Panther, at the age of 43 came as a surprise and shock to many. For a seemingly healthy, relatively young man to die from colorectal cancer seems almost incomprehensible.
Colorectal cancer disproportionately affects the Black community, where the rates are the highest of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. African Americans are about 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other groups.
The reasons for the differences are complex, but they largely reflect differences in risk factors and in health care access, both of which are related to socioeconomic status. In fact, African Americans are disproportionately burdened by cancer in general.
They often experience greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survival, including systemic racial disparities that are complex and go beyond the obvious connection to cancer. These obstacles can include lower paying jobs and lack of (or less comprehensive) health insurance, lack of access to healthy and affordable foods, low-quality education and housing, and unsafe environments.
See “Colorectal Cancer Rates Higher in African Americans, Rising in Younger People” on the American Cancer Society website (September 3, 2020)