Potentially related to those changes, cigarette sales dropped by 22 percent from 2000 to 2005. What did not drop were sales of menthol flavored cigarettes -- the type that 80 percent of Africans-Americans smoke. Some studies argue that menthols are more addictive than other types.
HOW WE CAN OVERCOME IT
Choosing not to smoke is the best way to prevent lung cancer. Even cutting down on the number of cigarettes per day can significantly decrease the risk.
There needs to be a stronger push for early detection and more aggressive treatment. African-Americans are typically diagnosed later in the disease, after it has already progressed. They also wait longer to begin treatment or refuse it all together.
Direct community outreach can focus not only on prevention, but also on educating people about lung cancer, discussing treatments and dispelling myths. Some African-Americans avoid lung cancer operations due to the false belief that exposing cancer to air during surgery will make it spread faster. In such cases, one myth can keep people from choosing potentially life-saving surgery.
More African-Americans are needed for medical research overall. Treatments that are known to work effectively on whites may or not work in all populations. Researchers recently found this true with one treatment for lung cancer -- African-Americans in the study did not have the special characteristic that the drug targeted. Thus, they are less likely to benefit from that treatment.
Avoiding exposure to air pollution is just as important as not smoking. Radon test kits are readily available and easy to use.
Lastly, adding fruits and vegetables as part of a regular diet may help. A few studies show that among smokers or ex-smokers, eating large amounts of flavonoids -- found in fruits, vegetables and teas -- reduced the risk of lung cancer.
WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING TO KEEP US HEALTHY
Major health organizations announced this month that banning menthol cigarettes in particular could save 600,000 lives -- one-third of whom are African-American. The FDA releases its decision mid-June.
Several states offer smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum at no cost. To access these resources or other support in quitting, call 1-800-QUITNOW or visit www.smokefree.gov.