Newswise — National Minority Cancer Awareness Week is April 20-26, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is encouraging people to learn about the growing disparity in cancer incidence and death rates that affect minority populations.

"The week's emphasis gives physicians, nurses, health care professionals and researchers an opportunity to assess current cancer trends facing minority populations and develop creative approaches to addressing issues unique to these communities," said Lovell A. Jones, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Minority Health at M. D. Anderson.

In 1986, Jones approached Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Representative Mervyn Dymally to support a joint resolution designating the third full week in April as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. On April 8, 1987, the U. S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 119 approved this recommendation. The resolution, as explained in the Congressional Record, drew attention to the fact that cancer has a disproportionately severe impact on minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

"National Minority Cancer Awareness Week promotes the importance of increased cancer screening and treatment among segments of the populations at greater risk of developing the disease," Jones said. "With a steadily changing demographic and the lack of significant progress in cancer disparities, the need to address this issue has become even greater to the well-being of this nation." Minority Populations Continue Rapid Growth

According to Jones, minority populations in the United States continue to grow at a rapid rate. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the nation's minority population currently is estimated at 100.7 million, compared to 98.3 million a year ago. In addition, nonwhites now make up a majority in almost one-third of the most-populous counties in the country and in nearly one in 10 of all 3,100 counties.

"The gap in cancer incidence and mortality rates between minority populations and whites also is a growing issue," Jones said. "Minority groups are more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with and/or die from certain types of cancer."

Factors that may contribute to this include: * Lack of medical insurance coverage or underinsurance* Barriers to early detection and screening, such as lack of access to nearby facilities * Language and cultural barriers* Unequal access to improved cancer treatments * Discrimination within the health care system

Events Scheduled for 2008

The Center for Research on Minority Health at M. D. Anderson plans to observe National Minority Cancer Awareness Week with a symposium luncheon open to the public on Tuesday, April 22 at the J. W. Marriot Hotel in Houston, Texas.

M. D. Anderson continues to offer programs for minority audiences throughout the year and not just during this observance week.

"Each year, we increase the number of programs we have for specific minority populations," says Donaji Stelzig, MPH, health education specialist in M. D. Anderson's Public Education Office. Over the past two years, Stelzig has partnered with organizations such as Camaras de Empresarios Latinos de Houston and the Houston Mexican Embassy to organize cancer education events for the Hispanic community. In the past six months, these events have reached more than 3,300 Hispanics.

"Collaborating with community organizations to organize programs targeting specific minority populations helps us to expand our reach and educate audiences about the importance of cancer prevention and screening practices," said Stelzig.

For more information on Houston-area programs for minority audiences and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, visit