Around the world, tributes for late actor Chadwick Boseman continue to pour in and a new light is being shed on colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women each year in the U.S., but for African Americans, it’s more common.
“When he passed away, it was like wow,” said Evan Hunt.
The death of Boseman at the age of 43 from colon cancer still has many stunned. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 23 Black males will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their life. Now, health officials are using his death as a way to educate others about the severity of the disease.
“There is an absolute fear of hearing bad news about your health, especially if it’s something out there that you know you can get,” said Hunt.
Hunt is 39 years old — the same age that Boseman was when he was diagnosed. Along with being African American, Hunt’s family has a history of cancer, which means he has a higher risk.
From 2012 to 2016, colorectal cancer rates in Blacks were 20 percent higher than whites, and for colorectal cancer death rates that number jumped to 40 percent higher.
“42 percent of lack of screening contributes to this increase in colorectal cancer in African Americans,” said Dr. Peter Kurniali, blood and cancer specialist at Sanford Health.
He says poor diet and inadequate healthcare also plays a role. The American Cancer Society recommends screening should be at age 45 for men and women and even earlier if there is a family history.
Dr. Kurniali added, “If we can catch the cancer at stage one there are a few benefits. One, the chances of the cancer recurring will be lower and the chances that one will die from the cancer will be lower.”
In Hunt’s case, he’s taking the death of Boseman seriously — planning to have his screenings done next year when he turns 40 to beat odds stacked against him.
Hunt said, “Nobody is immune. No matter how much money you have. No one is immune to cancer.”
Dr. Kurniali says with the lower screening ages, some insurance companies won’t cover a colonoscopy. On average, a colonoscopy costs $3,000.
But screenings are effective. Back in the ’90s, the U.S. had 200,000 colon cancer cases a year. Now, we’re down to about 160,000.