Good News For Blacks About Cancer

Good News For Blacks About Cancer

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service National Institutes of Health


Before today, you may not have thought about cancer and good news together. But, the news about cancer is getting better: Most people never get cancer. Most cancers can be cured if found early and treated right away. Best of all, you can take steps every day to reduce your chances of getting cancer.

Acting on this good news is extra important for blacks, because blacks get cancer and die from it more often than other groups. Blacks have a higher-than-average risk of getting cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box), throat, kidney, and pancreas (a gland that helps the body digest food). In the US, African-American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer. They are twice and five-times as likely to die from the disease as Caucasians and Asian-Americans, respectively. That is why you should learn the facts and protect yourself from cancer.


The best way to avoid cancer in the future is to do something about it NOW. Here are five ways you and your family can lower your c hances of getting this disease and can have healthier lives.

1. Don't smoke cigarettes. Don't chew tobacco or use snuff.

Using tobacco is never safe. Tobacco causes 3 out of every 10 cancers. Cigarette smoking is the reason for almost all lung cancer, the leading type of cancer in blacks. Smoking also causes many other heart and lung problems. Chewing tobacco and using snuff also can lead to some cancers. Using tobacco can result in even more health problems when combined with drinking alcohol, or in jobs where workers use hazardous materials.

If you smoke, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to quit. Quitting smoking is not always easy, but more than 3 million people do it every year. If you have tried to stop smoking and couldn't, don't give up. Keep trying. People often have to try many times before they quit for good. If you need help, ask your doctor, clinic staff, or the pharmacist at your local drugstore. You also can call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) for tips on how to stop smoking for good.

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2. If you drink alcohol, have only one or two drinks a day.

Drinking too much alcohol causes some types of cancer. Smoking and heavy drinking together make the risk of cancer even higher.

3. Choose healthy foods.

What you eat can affect your chances of getting cancer. Fatty foods like lunch meats, salt pork, and sausage add to your cancer risk. But foods with fiber (roughage) like vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals may protect against cancer.

You may already eat many foods that taste good and are good for you like vegetables, whole-grain breads, fish, and fresh fruits. To eat healthy, you don't have to give up the foods you enjoy!

To protect yourself from cancer, eat more foods that are low in fat and high in fiber. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Choose more foods like those listed below.
  • Season vegetables with spices, herbs, and lemon juice instead of salt pork and ham hocks
  • Instead of frying chicken, chops, and other meats, try baking or broiling them
  • Before cooking, trim all fat and skin from meats and poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Use less fats like margarine, butter, oil, shortening, and lard
  • Use low-fat milk (skim or 1%) in place of whole milk or cream
  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables like carrots, squash, kale and other greens, turnips, sweet potatoes, and cabbage
  • Eat fresh fruit every day
  • Try foods like whole-wheat bread, rye bread, bran muffins, corn bread, and oatmeal
  • Make pancakes and waffles with whole-grain flour
  • Choose more peas and beans such as black-eyed peas and kidney, pinto, navy, and lima beans


Low-fat foods Fish, chicken and turkey with no skin, skim milk, rice, spaghetti, fruits, and vegetables.

Foods with Oranges, grapefruit, peaches, strawberries, and vitamins A and C, melon. Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and broccoli.

Foods high in Whole-wheat or corn breads, cereals like bran, fiber (roughage), raw fruits and vegetables (with the skin), beans and peas.

4. Have as few x-rays as possible.

Having an x-ray taken every now and then is safe for most people. X-rays are helpful and contain only a small amount of radiation. Your cancer risk only goes up when you have x-rays too often, because large doses of radiation are harmful. To be safe, talk to your doctor and dentist to make sure each x-ray is needed. Let them know if you have had any other x-rays within the past 2 years. X-rays to find cancer and other health problems are always important. So you should not worry about risks from these x-rays when they are needed.

5. Learn and follow safety rules ar work.

In some jobs, you may be exposed to chemicals, metals, dusts, or fibers that can cause cancer. Find out about the safety rules where you work. To protect yourself, wear special clothes like gloves and masks, and always use safety equipment. If you smoke, try to stop right away. Smokers who work with hazardous materials have a very high risk of getting cancer.


When cancer is found early, it can be cured. Most cancers start small, in one part of the body. Over time they can grow and spread. Treatment is easier and works better when the cancer is still small, and has not spread.

You can check for some cancers yourself. If you are a woman, check your breasts for lumps every month. This is called breast self-exam or BSE. If you are a man, you should check your testicles for lumps every month. This is called testicular self-exam or TSE. Your doctor or staff at the local clinic can show you how to do these tests the right way. Then, it is up to you to do them every month to find cancer early.

The following are seven warning signs that may mean cancer. You know your body better than anyone else. Be alert to any changes.

Having a warning sign doesn't mean you have cancer, but if any change lasts longer than 2 weeks, see your doctor right away. Don't wait for signs to become painful. Pain is rarely an early sign of cancer.


  1. Change in bowel or bladder habits
  2. A sore that does not heal
  3. Unusual bleeding or discharge
  4. Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere
  5. Indigestion or problems with swallowing
  6. Obvious change in wart or mole
  7. Nagging cough or hoarseness


Seeing the doctor regularly can make a big difference. A doctor can often find early signs of cancer before you notice them. Also, take tests for cancer when they are given at health clinics and on the job.

Chances are good that you do not have cancer, even if you have one of the warning signs. But, the sooner you see your doctor, the sooner you will know for sure.


If your doctor says you have cancer, start medical treatment right away. You may want to see a cancer specialist (oncologist) and find out about the best hospital in your area for cancer patients. You also have the right to ask more than one doctor about your cancer and the best way to treat it. Many people get a second opinion as part of good health care.

Don't delay! When you follow a doctor's advice about cancer, your chances of living a long, healthy life are better than ever.


Today blacks can help themselves prevent cancer by making a few changes in the way they live. If you find cancer early and see a doctor right away, you have a good chance of being cured. So pass on this good news to family members and friends.

If you want to learn more about cancer and how to prevent it, call the Cancer Information Service toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). This free, private service answers questions for the general public, cancer patients, their families, and their friends.

Recommended Cancer Resources

 Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors 

 Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition 

 Beating Cancer with Nutrition, book with CD 

 Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do: Third Edition 

 SABRE Compact Pepper Spray with Pink Key Case - Supports National Breast Cancer Foundation 

 144 breast cancer awareness pink ribbon bracelets - bulk wholesale case lot for fundraising 


Most Common
Cancer Sites
Tests When To Have Tests
BreastMammogram - x-ray of the breastEvery year( women over 50)
Colon and RectumProcto - doctor looks at rectum and
part of colon using lighted tube
Every year (women over 50)
Test for blood in stoolEvery year( women over 40)
Cervix Pap test - doctor collects cells
from the cervix (opening of the uterus or womb);
lab checks cells for cancer
Every 1 to 3 yrs (all women)


Most Common
Cancer Sites
Tests When To Have Tests
Colon and Rectum Procto - doctor looks at rectum and part of colon
using lighted tube
Every year (men over 40)
Colonoscopy Doctor looks at colon
using lighted tube
Every 10 years (men over 50)
Test for blood in stool Every year (men over 40)
ProstateRectal exam - doctor uses
gloved finger to feel for
cancerous growths on prostate
Every year (men over 40)
The National Cancer Institute sponsors a toll-free Cancer Information Service (CIS). By dialing 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237), you will be connected to a CIS office, where a trained staff member can answer your questions and listen to your concerns. They also have a live chat website where you can get answers to your questions about cancer, clinical trials, and quitting smoking

In Alaska, call 1-800-638-6070; in Hawaii, on Oahu call 524-1234 (call collect from neighboring islands).

Spanish-speaking staff members are available to callers from the following areas (daytime hours only): California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey (area code 201), New York, and Texas.

NIH publication No. 87-2956

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