• Featured News

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Preventing cancer for future generations of Black families

The statistics are staggering. Black people are more likely to die from cancer than other racial and ethnic groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans have the highest death rate from cancer overall.

National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week is June 15–21. Dr. Kim Barbel Johnson, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician with the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, says educating patients is essential to reducing and preventing cancer deaths among Black people.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:05) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network. Read the script.

Black people are more likely to die from prostate, lung and breast cancer than other races. Dr. Barbel Johnson says there are many contributing factors, including genetics, habits and other mitigating circumstances.

"It has a lot to do with the structural racism that has created the environment, not only for access but for prioritizing and evolving treatments," says Dr. Barbel Johnson.

The family medicine physician says regular cancer screenings are key to increasing survival rates.

"It's important that we prioritize those things where we're seeing the incidence and the death rates are highest in these populations to be screened for those conditions," says Dr. Barbel Johnson.

Knowing your family history, regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are also crucial to cutting cancer risks.

"In doing so, we will then decrease things like red meat, increase things like vegetables within our diet, decrease the amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners that we have in our diet," she says.

She also recommends stopping tobacco use and getting adequate sleep.

a Black woman in a patient gown being prepared by a medical assistant for a breast cancer screening or mammogram

Preventing cancer risks:

  • Get vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B.
  • Schedule regular mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Protect your skin from the sun.