By: Richard Pazdur, M.D., Director, Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE), and Rea Blakey, Associate Director for External Outreach and Engagement, OCE
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) is announcing its inaugural National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week (NBFCAW), which will take place from June 17 through June 23, 2021. Throughout the week, the agency’s social media platforms will serve as the hub for this historic initiative as participants at health care centers, non-profit associations, and community organizations nationwide raise awareness about the impact of cancer on Black families. Research has shown that cancer awareness can help lower cancer mortality rates and increase life expectancy for all racial and ethnic groups, including Black Americans.
The awareness week has a designated social media hashtag, #BlackFamCan, and we are asking individuals and groups to participate by posting and tagging photos of community-based activities, meetings and events that encourage the exchange of family health history information, cancer awareness materials, and culture. A free social media toolkit is available for people to download and share to continue community dialogue and inspire others.
The week will also include OCE’s Conversations on Cancer: “NBFCAW: Engaging the Generations” public virtual panel discussion on June 17 at 2 p.m. ET. Individuals can register for free to learn from thought leaders in cancer research, patient advocacy, and health equity.
The FDA’s OCE created this weeklong social media campaign and engagement event partially in response to the national movement to promote racial equity and in accordance with the January 2021 Presidential Executive Order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, Section 8.” #BlackFamCan was timed to align with Juneteenth, a holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved people; National Cancer Survivorship Month; and Men’s Health Month.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act, and individuals can continue to participate in the NBFCAW initiative throughout 2021 by sharing their social media #BlackFamCan posts.
Raising awareness about cancer in Black communities is so important because Black Americans have had the highest mortality rates of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers. Black men in particular have the highest cancer incidence rates in the U.S. These cancer incidence rates could be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a decrease in preventive health services and screenings, including cancer screenings. The benefits of cancer screening and identifying cancers early has helped to reduce cancer-related deaths.
#BlackFamCan is run by OCE’s Project Community, a national public health initiative established in 2018 to introduce the work of FDA oncologists and hematologists to a national audience. Project Community aims to increase knowledge and minority participation in clinical trials and genetic databases.
Through #BlackFamCan and other important public outreach efforts, Project Community is committed to helping lower risk factors and empowering the lives of patients with cancer and their loved ones, cancer survivors, and advocates.