Breast cancer is a well-documented scourge in the Black community.
Black women and men have a higher risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime compared to their white counterparts, according to the American Cancer Society and BreastCancer.org. Mortality rates from breast cancer are significantly higher amongst the Black population, as well, research says.
Because of the pervasiveness of the disease, public Black figures and celebrities are making sure to get the word out about testing, treatments and other information. Here are some famous Black people who are big advocates for breast cancer awareness.
The iconic Shaft actor was diagnosed with cancer in 1993, battling the disease for five years. Ever since Richard Roundtree was declared cancer-free, he has been a staunch advocate for breast cancer awareness -- especially in Black men.
"Not talking about my cancer was really tough," he told ABC News in 2007. "And now that I do talk about it all the time, it's really become a backhanded blessing. I was getting on a plane recently and a flight attendant ran up to me and said 'You saved my husband's life.'"
Roundtree has traveled the world speaking about his experience and even worked with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Know Your Score Men’s Health Initiative.
The iconic actress and singer is a longtime advocate for breast cancer, whether she's discussing it on her show or amplifying the message in other ways. Queen Latifah also stresses the importance of early detection, encouraging Black women to never delay regular mammogram check-ups.
Gabrielle Union has been crusading against breast cancer for years. The star-studded actress revealed in 2012 that she lost her friend to the disease. Ever since then, Union has been a huge advocate for early screening, participating in promos, and becoming a Susan G. Komen global ambassador.
"Fear can literally kill you. It killed Kristen. Knowing is better than not knowing. Don’t let fear sway you from getting screened," she wrote for Essence.
Patti LaBelle has been open recently about how cancer has ravaged her family and friends. Now the legendary singer has been vigorously encouraging people to get screened as soon as possible. She even partnered with the Community Oncology Alliance and CancerCare for a recent campaign to promote cancer screenings. She was also a spokesperson for the Breast Reconstruction Awareness Campaign back in 2015.
"I have so many reasons to remind people what to do at this time of their lives... I lost three sisters and great friends to cancer... who didn’t get screened as often as they should have. People were afraid of going to doctors and let their health go by the wayside. It’s just so important for people to go and get screened … screening is the main thing we have to catch (disease) early," LaBelle told USA Today.
Vanessa Bell Calloway
Vanessa Bell Calloway is also a breast cancer survivor and is making sure Black women stay ahead on breast cancer. The Coming to America actress partnered with Susan G. Komen and the Ad Council for a national campaign: Know Your Girls. This initiative is dedicated to helping Black women stay on top of their health and be on the look out for breast cancer. She even did voice-over work for their public service announcement videos.
"We have a lot of different parts that work in a lot different ways," she said in 2019. "Instead of being of the old generation when you don’t go to the doctor because of fear or mistrust, become an active participant in your own health."
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