The anxiety of racism keeps Black men smoking

That is what explains racial cancer disparity

By Noble Johns

WASHINGTON (BNW) – If black men stopped smoking, their cancer rates would drop by nearly two-thirds, a U.S. researcher said. He said smoking explained virtually all the disparity between black men and white men in cancer mortality rates.

Yet, life in America is so hard for Black men today, that smoking is the only relief the average Black man can find; either he smokes cigarettes or he smokes crack. The way Black men are treated in this country and have been treated since he was brought here in chains, Black men have to smoke something to escape the misery and pain that these white racists are putting him through everyday in America.

If we as a country cannot create a nation that insist on dignity and respect for Black men on an equal bases as white men, this society is hypocritical to its own creed of freedom, justice and equality.

Writing in the May issue of the journal Preventive Medicine, Dr. Bruce Leistikow of the University of California Davis said smoking accounted for more than just lung cancer in men. It is also linked to cancers of the colon, pancreas and prostate.

"African-American men have had the highest cancer burden of any group in this country for decades," said Leistikow, an associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine.

"This study demonstrates, for the first time, that this excess cancer burden can be clearly linked to smoking," Leistikow said in a statement Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the current age-adjusted cancer death rate for U.S. black men is 330.9 deaths per 100,000 men, compared to 239.2 for white men.

In 1950, the overall cancer mortality rate was 178.9 for black males versus 210 for white males.

The CDC says about 440,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer and other diseases related to tobacco use.

Leistikow used lung cancer death rates as a measure of smoke exposure, and compared them with non-lung cancer death rates for black men in the United States from 1969 through 2000.

The non-lung cancer death rate closely shadowed the smoke exposure rate. Non-lung cancer mortality rose about 34 percent among black men during the first 20 years of the study period, paralleling a steep rise in lung cancer deaths.

From 1990 through 2000, the mortality rate dropped 11 percent, as smoking declined.

"During two decades of a steep rise, and a subsequent decade of steep fall, U.S. black male smoke exposures and non-lung cancer death rates have moved in near-perfect lock step up and down. The associations are very strong and have been consistent year-by-year for over 30 years," Leistikow said.

"This means that if black male smoking exposures fall dramatically, that alone is likely to erase the great majority of their cancer burden," he added.

"Smoking may cause most premature cancer deaths in black men," he concluded in his report. He said his finding suggested 66 percent of all cancer deaths in black men were due to smoking in 1990. As smoking rates fall, that figure can be expected to fall as well.

Health officials have been expressing concern in recent years at the disparities between blacks and whites involving a range of diseases, but black men clearly are more likely to die of cancer.

In the past, black men have smoked more than other groups, but the CDC has registered sharp declines in smoking rates among blacks since 2001.

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