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Blacks and Hispanics have disproportionately high rates of cancer in Erie County

Posted at 5:54 PM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 10:26:57-04

This week is "National Minority Cancer Awareness Week."

Roswell Park Cancer Institute is using this week to raise awareness about forms of cancer on the rise among African-Americans and Hispanics.

In fact here in Western New York blacks and Hispanics have disproportionately high rates of breast, lung, and prostate cancer. African-Americans overall are more likely to develop aggressive forms of prostate and breast cancer. Black women are also more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Doctors not sure exactly about the reason for those statistics. However, they believe diet, economic status, and lack of access to preventative care have roles.

Veronica Meadows-Ray is in remission after beating an aggressive form of breast cancer. The Buffalo woman was diagnosed with it in 2007.

It wasn't sensitive to any of the some of the medicines that they have in terms of curing cancer. So they had to put together a medical program that would help get rid of my cancer," Meadows-Ray said.

She found out seven of her relatives between the ages 28 and 78 were also diagnosed with cancer. It led Roswell Park along with the University at Buffalo and The Susan G. Koman For the Cure to do a national study about genes that increase the risk of breast cancer among African Americans.

They found indicators on two other chromosomes that might lead to new medicines. Researchers believe there is a difference between the cancer causing genes in whites and minorities. However, they are at least $50,000 short of completing the study.

This disease also impacts the Puerto Rican community at a higher rate than other Hispanic groups. That's why Roswell is working to address this issue through research.

"What we like to learn is more about the specific needs of this community and how we can best tailor sensation programs and other cancer prevention needs," Dr. Elisa Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Cancer Prevention and Control with Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research said.

Meadows-Ray said many times black and Hispanic families like to keep their health issues a secret. She said sharing is caring.

"You must tell your family about things that are going on with your health because it could be happening to someone else and you want to save them," Meadows-Ray said.

You can learn more about Cancer Awareness by clicking here.