*First we learned that the world had lost legendary Jazz saxophonist James Moody last week to pancreatic cancer.
Then we discovered that the mystery ailment that had put the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin in the hospital recently was also pancreatic cancer.
The two developments are part of a silent trend which is hitting African Americans hard.
In fact, according to the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, cancer of the pancreas is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the incidence of pancreatic cancer is 50 percent to 90 percent higher in African Americans than in any other racial group in the country. Why? The medical professional is not entirely sure but the professionals do have their suspicions.
The studies which have been conducted suggest that the primary factors are environmental and socio-economic. Cigarette smoking appears to be the biggest risk factor followed by diabetes, pancreatitis, being overweight and poor access to health care.
More disheartening is that cancer of the pancreas appears to be a near-death sentence. Currently only five percent of those diagnosed with the ailment are still alive five years after diagnosis. A 10-year study of cancer of the pancreas in black patients at historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C. found that “no form of treatment had significant effect in terms of survival in stages II, III and IV of the disease.”
The experts tell us the best way to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer is to quit smoking, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed meats and drop those pounds if you are overweight.
[The pancreas is essentially a digestive organ. It is located deep in your belly between your stomach and the backbone. It produces enzymes which help break down food and it also makes insulin and other hormones.]
For more info on pancreatic cancer, visit the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry, HERE.