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Why Is There An 'Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month'?

Posted in General Health 02 Jul, 2015

Cancer directly affects 1 in 3 of us during our lifetime. But did you know that a Black male is three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than a White male? That's a fairly startling stat. And if your race, something completely out of your control, can have such an effect on your health, what can be done about it?

Well, that's what Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month (EMCAM) hopes to address.

Cancer in ethnic minorities

Whilst social factors such as employment and income, age, education and gender were also logged, there was no strong indication that any of these skewed the statistics or indicated a lack of awareness. So what are the cancer stats across ethnic minorities, and why do some cancers affect certain races more than others?

  • • 70-72% of people from ethnic minorities seek medical attention if a mole changes appearance, compared to 93% of white Brits.
  • • Ethnic minorities are 4 times more likely to ignore an unfamiliar lump.
  • • Only 31% of Asian women describe themselves as "very aware" of cervical cancer.
  • • Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Chinese are the 3 highest races that smoke in the UK, yet ethnic minorities tend to have the least knowledge about the effects of smoking.

Other causes

As well as the likelihood of ethnic minorities developing certain types of cancer being statistically higher, there are any other underlying factors. For example, studies conducted by 8 English universities have shown that those who class themselves as "black, South Asian and those who identified themselves as 'other ethnic group' were less likely to recognise all cancer symptoms" than their white counterparts.

The same study found that ethnic minorities were more reluctant or embarrassed to head to the doctor if they experienced symptoms like a change in a mole or a persistent cough. Young girls were less likely to have the cervical cancer jab if they were from a BME background.

As well as further education being made available to all ethnicities, it appears we need to be removing the stigma of seeking medical attention, even when the symptoms appear to be mundane. Going forward, charities need to openly target ethnic minorities resulting in an equal chance of beating cancer across the board, which could raise more awareness and lead to better care... maybe even a cure in the future.

Most common symptoms of cancer

Whilst cancer symptoms can vary from person to person, if you are experiencing persistent or unusual symptoms, it is worth seeking medical help:

  • • Unexplained bleeding
  • • Unexplained weight loss
  • • Any lumps
  • • Any swelling
  • • Unexplained persistent pain
  • • Breathlessness
  • • Persistent coughing or hoarseness
  • • Persistent bloating
  • • Persistent heartburn or indigestion
  • • A new mole, or changes to an existing mole
  • • Problems with your bowel movements or urinating

These symptoms could also be a result of a less serious illness, but it is still essential to get them checked out. For more information about cancer symptoms, visit Macmillan and Cancer Research UK.


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