Monday, July 13, 2009

Cancer in Black and White

Chicago Tribune reporter Deborah L. Shelton stirred up the pot (a good thing!) in her article "Study: Race Gap in African-American Cancer Deaths may be Partly Biological." (See link below.) She features a researcher who, according to a "study," found that African-Americans died from breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers at higher rates than Caucasians because of the former's biology.

According to the article, in 2005, the last year data was available, "the breast cancer death rate for African-American women in the city was 116 percent higher than that for white women."

116 percent higher?

Sorry, but that whole "biology" argument doesn't cut it with me. In fact, it's heinous to just blame biological factors for certain races as the reason these individuals' death rates from disease are higher -- without exploring such factors as socioeconomic status and access to quality medical care.

As someone who is lucky to have great insurance, I can honestly say that I shouldn't have to feel "lucky." Our medical system is in dire straits and has been in the news so much lately because people are aware of the disparity in quality of treatment and the underinsured.

The disparity is this: when it comes to receiving quality medical care, socioeconomic factors do play a role in determining individuals' medical fate.

It is really unfair. Something needs to change....and fast.,0,1360139.story

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris College in the Chicago area. She can be contacted at and She also blogs on the adventures of her cats, Hemi and Cosette, at



  1. its surprising that the research didn't discuss these other factors re. SES, diet, access to routine medical care, etc. it seems to me that early detection is paramount to beating cancer, and if you dont have health insurance and arent going to an gyno regularly, then you are really at a disadvantage.

  2. I'm with Alicia on this one.

  3. I agree with both of you. There are so many factors that play into this. I think some researchers and some in the media like to have "the answer," when the answer is very complex.