By Frederick H. Lowe
The largest study so far of African- American cancer survivors is now underway in Detroit.
The Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors (ROCS) study has launched a $9 million project that will investigate the lives of 5,560 black cancer survivors over the next five years.
The study, which is led by the National Cancer Institute, will collect data from participants who live in three counties surrounding Detroit. The counties account for 70 percent of Michigan’s African-American population and approximately 21,000 people in those areas are diagnosed with cancer every year. Detroit is the county seat of Wayne County.
Blacks continue to suffer from disproportionately higher cancer rates in the United States compared to other ethnic and racial groups. African Americans are also likely to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of the disease and die from cancer at much higher rates than other groups.
The research will look at major factors affecting cancer progression, recurrence, mortality and quality of life among African-American cancer survivors
The study is being conducted to answer questions about the high rate of cancer among African Americans, which has remained a mystery because there haven’t been enough blacks who agreed to participate in a single study.
“Investigating the complex factors that lead to disparities in cancer among underserved populations should lead to a greater understanding of the social and biological causes of such differences,” said Robert Coyle, Ph.D., director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.
The ROCS study will investigate factors that affect cancer survival, including type of treatment, coexisting diseases, genetics, social structure, support, neighborhood context, poverty, stress, racial discrimination, literacy, quality of life and behavioral factors such as smoking, alcohol use, diet and physical activity.
In addition, ROCS officials will regularly interview 2,780 family members to learn how a cancer diagnosis affects the mental and physical health of caregivers.
The ROCS will focus on lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, the four most-common forms of the often deadly disease.
Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by external factors, such as tobacco use, infectious organisms, and an unhealthy diet, as well as internal factors, such as inherited genetic mutations, hormones, and immune conditions, according to Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans: 2016-2018.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death behind heart disease among black adults. It is the third leading cause of death among children one to 14 years old following accidents and homicide.
In 2016, the American Cancer Society predicted that about 93,900 men would be diagnosed with cancer compared with 95,929 women.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among black women and prostate cancer is the type of cancer most often diagnosed among black men.