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Reducing Cancer Health Disparities

It is estimated that more than 1.3 million people in the United States will
be diagnosed with cancer this year. Another 564,000 people will die from
the disease. These persons will be connected to all of us in some way:
mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, neighbors and

This is a health reality that cannot be ignored in the American
Indian/Alaska Native community. We must learn as much as we can about this
devastating disease - prevention strategies such as the role of diet and
exercise, treatment options and warning signs. It is important that
everyone get involved in cancer awareness, no matter where you live in the
American Indian/Alaska Native community.

Populations are not affected by cancer in equal ways. There are
disparities, which are negative outcomes in health status that are the
result of inequalities in such areas as access to health care, prevention,
treatment and other factors. Recently, the National Cancer Institute (NCI),
part of the National Institutes of Health, released new statistics on
cancer cases and deaths. The numbers are revealing. According to NCI's SEER
(Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) program:

The death rate for kidney cancer in American Indian/Alaska Native men and
women was higher than in all other racial and ethnic populations.

Ovarian cancer was the fifth most common cancer for American Indian/Alaska
Native women, the highest ranking for ovarian cancer in any racial or
ethnic population.

Tragically, all of us can name at least one person in our lives who lost
his or her battle with cancer. At NCI, we are addressing cancer disparities
on several fronts:

In 2001, NCI created the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities
(CRCHD). CRCHD continues to be successful in highlighting groundbreaking
research on cancer and the medically underserved, including how such
factors as race, economics and geography affect cancer incidence and

Last year, NCI raised the profile of cancer disparities when Director
Andrew C. von Eschenbach M.D. issued an ambitious challenge goal for the
institute - to work to eliminate suffering and death due to cancer by the
year 2015. As part of that goal, NCI made the elimination of cancer health
disparities one of seven key research priorities.

Last month, an appointed panel of experts in minority heath, the Cancer
Health Disparities Progress Review Group, produced a comprehensive report
on cancer disparities for NCI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. The report includes a series of recommendations for the federal
government to address cancer disparities.

Today, we have a greater understanding of the underpinnings of cancer. Our
level of knowledge about this disease is the result of outstanding research
over the years, coupled with an explosion in technology. These developments
are the beginning of our triumph over cancer - for all Americans,
regardless of their race, socio-economic standing or where they live.