Medical College of Wisconsin studying cancer disparities

MILWAUKEE — The Medical College of Wisconsin is looking for ways to fight racial disparity in cancer deaths in the state.

Black residents in Wisconsin get cancer at a 22 percent higher rate than do white residents, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Factors leading to cancer disparities for African Americans include stress, income, lifestyle and poor diet. Biological differences and medical access also contribute.

"It's a nationwide problem, but it is heightened because of the level of segregation in Milwaukee," said Lauren Matthews, who has focused on the problem for three years as a community program coordinator at the college Cancer Center's Prevention and Outcomes Program.

The Milwaukee college has launched a program offering free prostate screenings for black men, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The program also provides community education about cancer screening.

"There needs to be a lot more conversation about cancer — not just where to get it treated — but on the prevention side," Matthews said.

The college also is studying breast cancer, colorectal cancer and smoking with $435,000 in funding help from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

"Although cancer can affect any person in our community, data makes clear that the disease's impact on communities of color can be disproportionate, warranting deeper study," said Janel Hines, the foundation's senior director of grant programs and strategic initiatives.