Kraft was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Kraft,an adjunct psychology professor at Northeast Lakeview College in San Antonio,shared her personal story in a conference call Monday hosted by the American Lung Association.
Experts on the conference call discussed a new report,“Too many cases,too many deaths: Lung cancer in African Americans.”
Kraft said she smoked socially on and off for 15 years but was never a pack-a-day kind of smoker. After two years as a non-smoker,however,she underwent surgery,radiation and chemotherapy because of a lump in her lungs.
Kraft is among the few black lung cancer survivors to reach the five-year survival mark.
According to the study,only 12 percent of black people live longer than five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
The report pulled information from past studies to examine the biological,political,cultural and environmental factors that may contribute to blacks being more likely to be diagnosed with and to die from lung cancer than any other race.
“We pulled all the pieces of the puzzle together to try to get a full picture of the factors,” said Katherine Pruitt,assistant vice president of program services for the American Lung Association. “Our first goal is to raise awareness to break the silence within in the community and within decision makers.”
Last year,159,000 people in the United States died of lung cancer – a death toll greater than the number of deaths attributed to prostate,colon and breast cancer combined,said William Hicks,professor of clinical medicine at the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Although all races are affected by the disease,there is a disparity between the races with blacks being affected more,he said during the conference call.
“Lung cancer is the No. 1 killing cancer – 80 percent of which are related to cigarette smoking,” Hicks said. “Unfortunately,African Americans suffer from it more than any other group.”
Even though blacks are more likely to have lung cancer,they are not the largest smoking demographic.
About 25 percent of black men,23 percent of white men and 42 percent of Native American and Alaska native men are smokers,the report said. Women smoke at lower rates – 18 percent of black women,20.6 percent of white women and 22.4 percent of Native American and Alaska native women.
Native Americans and Alaska native men and women have the lowest lung cancer rate per 100,000 at 44.9.
Black men and women have the highest rate at 74.7 per 100,000,and the rate for whites is 64.4.
“Clearly something else is going on,” Hicks said.
The report found that black neighborhoods typically have air toxin levels on average 1.5 times higher than other communities.
The report said that 68 percent of black families live within 30 miles of coal-fired power plants. That is 12 percent higher than most white communities.
Genetics could play a role as well,the study said.
Research shows that a specific gene occurs with higher frequency among black people and is linked with cotinine levels,the report said. Cotinine is a byproduct of nicotine that stays in the blood stream.
Researchers are reviewing continine levels to see if biological differences in blacks could contribute to higher cancer rates.
The report also examined socioeconomic,political and cultural factors that could contribute to the rise in lung cancer among blacks.
Approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty. Eight percent of whites live in poverty as do 24 percent of blacks.
Socioeconomic status is correlated with cancer rates,the report said,and white and black men who have 12 or fewer years of education are more than twice as likely to die from lung,colorectal and prostate cancers.
With the release of the report,the American Lung Association made recommendations to help eliminate the problem of lung cancer,including urging the government to ensure that federal housing is safe and does not include environmental hazards such as radon,which is linked to lung cancer.
The association applauds the new health care law,said Chuck Connor,American Lung Association president.
“While some progress has been made,especially in reducing smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke,much remains to be done,” Connor said.