By: Taren Vaughan
When it comes to developing certain diseases, we as African American females always seem to get the short end of the stick. In comparison to white women, we are prone to facing greater health risks across the board. And for these risks, many of them can potentially be much more life threatening than they are for women of other racial groups. Cancer is one disease in particular that has always heavily affected black women. Luckily for both genders, extensive research has led to the development of new treatments that totally cure some of the most common forms of cancer out there. The unfortunate part about all of this is that a lot of the newer treatments for cancer, namely breast cancer, don’t help sisters out as much as we once thought.
According to Lisa A. Newman, researcher at the University of Michigan, our ancestry plays a huge part as to why our bodies don’t respond to new age cancer treatments as well as white women’s do:
“Outcome disparities are therefore likely to increase, because fewer black women are candidates for these newer treatments”
To get a better grasp of the main causes behind the rapid rates of aggressive forms of cancer in African American women, studies were conducted in both Ghana and in the United States. While they found that lower percentages of white and black women developed triple negative breast cancer, a little over 80 percent of African women fall victim to this form of cancer. While these stats only show that aggressive cancer rates are linked to African women the most out of all three groups, overall both black women and African women are more likely to suffer from deadly forms of cancer period, with breast cancer being one of the most common forms.
Now the name “triple negative” itself sounds very much like a serious form of cancer without even knowing the full details behind it. Newman and her team of researchers go on to discuss why triple negative cancer seems to knock on the doors of women of color more than anyone else. And a lot of it has to do with the type of skin that we have.
Women of color, which includes Hispanic and African American women, have skin that contains melanin. And seeing as though melanin blocks ultra-violet light, the source at which Vitamin D is produced from, our levels will remain much lower than those of Caucasian women. Because our low levels of Vitamin D are mostly likely due to a lack of sunlight, Author Phyllis A. Balch says that there is no need to run out to the grocery store and stock up on Vitamin D tablets. That problem can be taken care of by just letting your skin get a sufficient amount of sun:
“Vitamin D supplements are not necessary; all that is needed for the body to manufacture adequate amounts of Vitamin D for fighting cancer is to expose your hands and face to sunlight for twenty minutes each day. Do not use sunscreen during this twenty-minute period, since sunblocks screen out the kind of ultraviolet light that stimulates the natural production of the vitamin.”
Aside from not getting the right amount of sunlight, other factors like living in communities with high crime levels and overall dietary practices can trigger the development of life threatening forms of cancer as well. But seeing as though some of us can’t always control the types of environments that we grow up in, we can however ensure that we engage in activities that allow our bodies to get enough Vitamin D naturally on a regular basis. Taking a few moments to let our skin get some much needed sun could help us fight off that deadly triple negative, leading us to living longer, healthier and most important, cancer free lives.