Lung cancer: Not just a smoker’s disease

theGRIO REPORT - Although black men smoke less than white men, they are 40 percent more likely to develop the disease...

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.


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.


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

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The attack in Montgomery prompted a court order against the Klan by U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson of Montgomery and led to new federal rules guaranteeing an end to segregation in all aspects of interstate travel.

Shortly after the museum opened Friday, an exhibit recognizing Johnson's landmarks rulings in the civil rights era was dedicated in the federal courthouse next door.

The old bus station was slated for demolition in 1993 to make way for an expansion of the courthouse. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson and Patterson advocated that it be spared because of its place in history. After it sat empty for many years, the Alabama Historical Commission developed the 3,000-square-foot museum with art work, photos and descriptions of what happened and the impact it had.

"The museum may be small, but its significance is monumental," Thompson said.

The Historical Commission is uncertain what days it will be open because the commission, like most other state agencies, is facing a 45 percent budget cut over two years.

The museum is within walking distance of several of Montgomery's other civil rights attractions, including the Rosa Parks Library, Civil Rights Memorial, and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King served as pastor when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

Thompson, Montgomery's first black federal judge, praised the way the museum turned out, but he said, "There is no better way to forget something than to commemorate it."

He said the museum should not be a symbol that everything the Freedom Riders sought has been accomplished. He said it should reinvigorate the principles of the Freedom Riders "of liberty and justice for all."

He asked the crowd: "Would you today take a bus ride under the circumstances faced by the Freedom Riders back in 1961?"

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Our hearts and hands go out to those effected across the MidWest by devastating tornadoes!