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Black News Channel: Colon Cancer in the Black Community

Black News Channel anchor Brittany Jones recently spoke with Cedars-Sinai colorectal surgeon Zuri Murrell, MD, about why colon cancer is more common in the Black community and how it can be prevented.

Black men and women are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with it than white people. Why? Murrell told Jones that socioeconomic status plays a role, as does access to quality healthcare. The ability to find tumors or precancerous growths called polyps also is related to race.

"We think that the African American colon on the right side ages quicker than a Caucasian colon on the right side, whereas, for Caucasians, the left side ages quicker than the right," Murrell told Jones. Many of the screening tests used in the past could only examine the left side of the colon, but in Black people, most tumors and polyps are on the right side of the colon.

Eating habits also influence an individual's odds for developing this type of cancer, Murrell said. "One of the biggest risk factors for getting colorectal cancer is eating a diet that is high in red meat … fried foods, barbecue and broiled foods. Red meat in and of itself is a carcinogen," Murrell told Jones.

But colon cancer often is preventable, Murrell said. Polyps can easily be detected and removed during a screening called a colonoscopy, but health studies show Black people are not offered the screening at the same rate as their white counterparts, Murrell told Jones

He encouraged viewers to know their family history of colorectal cancer, which also affects one's risk—and not be afraid to talk about it or get screened.

"I always say, 'You shouldn't die from fear, and you shouldn't die from embarrassment," Murrell told Jones. "A lot of us are afraid to get a test, but this test, this colonoscopy, prevents cancer."

Click here to view the complete segment from Black News Channel.