Lung Cancer and Black Men: Now is the Time to Get Screened

Have you kept up with your annual cancer screenings this year?

If not, it’s time to get all your cancer screening appointments on the books.

Lung Cancer Statistics

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., resulting in more deaths each year than prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers combined.

lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death

More than 235,760 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and 131,880 will die of the disease.

Black men lung cancer statistics

Of all ethnic/racial and gender groups in the United States, Black men are the most likely to develop lung cancer and also to die from the disease. Black men are about 15% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 90% of lung cancers. 

Despite the prevalence of anti-smoking campaigns, Black men continue to smoke and tend to pick up the habit later in life.

lung cancer smoking statistics

However, smoking alone cannot explain the high incidence and mortality from the disease in Black men.

Many other factors such as environment, genetics, and exposure to carcinogens, contribute to the prevalence of the disease.

Historically, lung cancer has been difficult to treat. It is challenging to detect in its early stages and can take years to develop.

By the time a patient notices symptoms and is diagnosed, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body which makes the disease more complicated to manage.

Black Men Are at High Risk of Developing Lung Cancer

My uncle smoked cigarettes for over three decades. In addition, he worked in a factory that had high concentrations of dust, particulates, and asbestos. 

He had a terrible cough all the time, and I could tell that he had difficulty breathing. Despite pleas from his wife, he refused to go to the doctor.

His condition worsened until he could no longer ignore it. When he finally went to the doctor, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. 

We were devastated, but not surprised.

Unfortunately, he died a few months after his diagnosis.

The good news is that with screening, we can now detect lung cancer in earlier stages. Treatment possibilities for those with lung cancer are expanding. 

lung cancer early detection

When detected at an early stage, lung cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Like my uncle, many Black men believe lung cancer will not affect them, even though the disease has a large impact on the Black community.

Get Screened for Lung Cancer

That is why it’s so important to encourage your loved ones to do two things:

  1. Stop smoking – This is the best thing your loved one can do for his overall health. If he needs help quitting, he can call the toll free quitline 1-877-44U-QUIT or visit 
  2. Get screened – The new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines recommend yearly lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scanning (LDCT) for people who:
    • Have a history of heavy smoking (20 pack-years or more. A pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year)
    • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years
    • Are between 50 and 80 years old.
lung cancer screening

If lung cancer is detected early, you’ll have more treatment options and increase your chances of survival.

If you fall under these new expanded guidelines but have not yet made your appointment, now is the time to get screened.

Many of us have delayed or canceled our routine screening appointments due to the pandemic, but it’s important to stay up-to-date on screenings.

Check out the Prevent Cancer Foundation website to learn more about getting your appointment back on the books. 

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