Pancreatic cancer long targeted Black people, but even more vexing was the fact that so little is known about it, including what causes it. Despite a number of medical breakthroughs, scientists still haven’t found a cure for the terminal illness.
The statistics for pancreatic cancer victims along racial lines are damning, with a lopsided number of Black people being diagnosed with the ailment.
In June, Joe Jackson, father of singing legend Michael, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Read on to find out more about what pancreatic cancer means for Black people diagnosed with it.
The reports that Joe Jackson was battling a terminal case of pancreatic cancer came as the deadly disease has lopsidedly affected Black people. The patriarch of the famed Jackson musical dynasty that’s spawned superstars Michael, Janet as well as the Jackson 5 has been fighting the cancer for months, according to the Daily Mail, which first reported the news on Friday.
While it was unclear when Jackson had been diagnosed, patients are typically given anywhere from six to 12 months to live after being told of their condition, according to Pancreatica.org, a website that’s part of the Cancer Patients Alliance nonprofit organization.
Scientists haven’t determined what causes pancreatic cancer, and treatment options are limited, according to the American Cancer Society. However, there were several risk factors that physicians have concluded were linked to pancreatic cancer, including tobacco use and being overweight or obese.
However, there were also two other risk factors in particular that Jackson couldn’t avoid: gender and especially his race.
Slightly more men (about 29,000) than women (about 26,000) were projected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. “The average lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer for men is about 1 in 63,” the American Cancer Society wrote on its website. “For women, the lifetime risk is about 1 in 65.”
But cancer has been proven to be more deadly for Black people, with that fact being resoundingly true for pancreatic cancer patients, statistics have shown since around 1970, when pancreatic cancer trends began reversing themselves along racial lines.
“In white men, pancreatic cancer death rates decreased by 0.7% per year from 1970 to 1995 and then increased by 0.4% per year through 2009,” according to research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “In contrast, the rates among blacks increased between 1970 and the late 1980s (women) or early 1990s (men).”
The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine took it a step further and found through clinical research that the “incidence of pancreatic cancer is 50 – 90% higher in African Americans than in any other racial group in the United States. Not only is pancreatic cancer more common among African Americans, but African Americans also have the poorest prognosis of any racial group because they often are diagnosed with advanced, and therefore, inoperable cancer.”