A Black History Month message from Conan Harris, spouse of U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley

This month, Black History Month, we celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black Americans throughout our nation’s history.

Hello, my name is Conan Harris, spouse of Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.

Among those Black Americans we honor are Dr. Jane Cooke Wright, who along with her father, researched chemotherapy drugs that led to remissions in patients with leukemia and lymphoma; and Dr. May Edward Chinn, a pioneer in the field of cancer early detection, helping to develop the Pap test for cervical cancer screening.

And we pay tribute to Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cancer gave rise to the first, immortalized cell line that changed medical science and benefited millions.

Black Americans have made some of the greatest contributions to our fight against cancer. And yet we are the people who suffer the most from the effects of cancer in this country.

Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival among any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers.

This disparity is partially rooted in systematic racism that has caused many Black Americans to distrust the medical system. Black Americans are also more likely to face barriers—like the lack of routine medical care, transportation or access to healthy foods—that further contribute to poor cancer outcomes.

Cancer affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. We must do more to overcome these disparities. This requires systemic change but there are certain actions we can take ourselves. Organizations like the Prevent Cancer Foundation offer resources to help you find out what cancer screenings you need to detect cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely, and ways you can reduce your risk of certain cancers. Visit www.preventcancer.org to learn more. Thank you, and let’s make sure that we’re more healthy overall.

Listen to more Voices for Cancer Prevention on the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s YouTube channel.