A state report i s not confirming what many have believed for a long time — cancer rates are higher in a section of Buffalo’s East Side and Cheektowaga.
Some call this area a “cancer cluster” and it includes zip codes 14211, 12215, and 14225.
The study looked at rates based on data from 2011 to 2015 and found rates of esophageal cancer in these zip codes were higher than expected.
Lung cancer was 25% higher, colorectal cancer is 40% higher, prostate cancer 49% higher, and kidney cancer was 69% higher in the east Buffalo- Cheektowaga border area.
But, what the report also said is that it was not the environment — things like contamination and pollution — that was causing the higher rates.
The report found that it was the high rates of smoking and obesity in the area.
It suggested health officials target smoking prevention and healthier eating initiatives to help address and lower the cancer rates.
Local leaders in the racial health disparity community say the report puts the cart before the horse when it comes to solutions.
“You can’t change health outcomes without changing economic outcomes,” said Pastor George Nicholas who commissioned the African American Health Equity Task force. “You can’t change economic outcomes without changing educational outcomes and your can’t change educational outcomes without changing — you know?”
Reverend Diann Holt works with bringing the healthcare gaps in Western New York and says it comes down to convincing leaders to put resources into the Black community.
“We’ve always been that community that has been ignored, we’ve always been that community that has never been listened to, we’ve always been the community where no one really seems to care what happen to us or our children.”
Nicholas said it is not just about money, it’s about resources that need to come from all areas of the infrastructure of the city.
Human resources, policies, and money.
“There have been structural, institutional, systematic racism that has been embedded in our culture since we came here.”