CPS3 and African-Americans. Why aren’t they reaching out to all of us?

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My “I Voted” sticker for the cancer study.

Well after my pitch about the need for African-Americans to support CPS3 in Howard County, I braved the rain and a potential tornado to formally enroll yesterday. Of course needles are not my strong point (see photo below).

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I was thinking about this study and African-Americans in DC. (For those of you who are new to my blog, let me inform you that I am a health writer who covers stories in Washington DC, my hometown.) The District has the highest cancer deaths in the entire country in breast, prostate, and colorectal. I know because I’ve been covering cancer in the District for nearly a year. Surely this study would be a slam dunk for DC, right? Nope! In fact, there is no enrollment for DC on the American Cancer Society’s list.

Interestingly enough there is no enrollment in Baltimore City and only one in all of Prince George’s County. These are three locations that have a high percentage of African-American residents. So at first glance I concluded that there’s something very wrong with this picture. The second leading cause of death in Prince George’s County, Maryland is cancer killing 615 women and 612 men in 2010. Baltimore City has the highest mortality rate of cancer in all of Maryland. Three urban (or suburban-urban as Prince George’s is) areas with large populations of African-Americans that have been disproportionately affected by cancer are being left off the list of enrollment for a cancer study. Why?

A few weeks ago I asked my girlfriend of mine to inquire about what a DC resident might do if he or she would like to enroll in the study.  Here’s the response she received from the American Cancer Society.

“Hello and thanks for your message inquiring about the Cancer Prevention Study-3.

Although we are enrolling for this study across the country in various locations, we are not necessarily enrolling in every state.  That decision was based on population density, quality of state cancer registries, or proximity of our lab partners.  Unfortunately, we are not enrolling in your state.  Since there is only one face to face interaction required and you do not have to live in a state to enroll, it is possible there may be an enrollment location near a family member or friend.  To see the schedule of dates, times and locations, visit cancer.org/cps3 and check back often as enrollment locations are added regularly.

Here is what else you need to know.  The initial enrollment process involves two steps, one in person and one at home.

As part of the in-person enrollment, you will be asked to read and sign an informed consent, complete a brief written survey, provide a waist circumference measurement and give a small blood sample (similar to a doctor’s visit) drawn by trained, certified phlebotomists.  Your in-person enrollment will take approximately 20-30 minutes.

At home you will complete a more comprehensive baseline survey that asks for information on lifestyle, behavioral, and other factors related to your health. This survey will take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.

Following enrollment, you will receive mailed surveys at home every few years to update your information. You will also receive annual study newsletters to update you on research results.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of the research that may change the course of cancer forever. Together, we have the power to save countless lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays!  Whether you choose to enroll or not, please forward this email to friends, coworkers, and family members and encourage them to fight back against cancer by enrolling in CPS-3.”

Hmmm…… Ok. Maybeeeeeeeee DC, PG County and Baltimore doesn’t have the populations that they are targeting or maybe the registry quality of these areas suck and they don’t collect enough info for their study. But how odd is it that other states do qualify for the study and they are a stones throw away from these urban sites. That dog don’t hunt. This is far too serious for African-Americans to be left out. And it’s too serious to throw some low ball excuse about why you are skirting around areas where many African-Americans reside. “Proximity of lab partners” be damned. If you want to fight cancer, take it straight on.  If something is missing, work around it. Don’t wus out on it. Make it happen.

This will require a little more investigating.  I’m hoping for a reasonable explanation and a follow up study that actually does focus on African-Americans in these areas. There may even be a study going on like this right now and I am just unaware of it. I wanna believe that, don’t you? I still support this study and I’m proud to be in the number. I look forward to the results in 20 years and I hope I can be not only helpful but an example for my community. Still my curiosity presses on and so do I. Stay tuned my friends.

Thanks for reading!

PS Share my post all you like. I welcome any comments or explanations that might satisfy my busy little mind. If you have some insight, feel free to share with me in the comment section or via email writeoncm@gmail.com.

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