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Eight most serious health risks that your family may face

HEALTHY: Eight health warnings for black families

PEOPLE FROM African Caribbean backgrounds who live in the UK are more likely than people from other cultures to have certain health conditions. This can also apply to mixed race people of African Caribbean descent.

The conditions that the black community are more at risk from include high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and prostate cancer.

Experts are not sure why these conditions are more prevalent in people of African Caribbean origin, but they think it might be linked to diet, lifestyle and different ways of storing fat in the body.

This week The Voice highlights eight conditions that affect the black community and should not be ignored.


Lupus causes the body to attack its own cells and tissues.

The illness affects 30,000 people in the UK, particularly African Caribbean women.

It can cause joint pains, inflammation and potentially deadly organ failure.

But officials say that many black people miss out on support because they are afraid of stigma, are not aware of the illness, or do not understand it. There is no known cure but with medication a person can lead a normal lifestyle.


Prostate Cancer
Black are three times more likely to get prostate cancer than white men.

Researchers are not sure about the reasons for the increased risk, but they think diet and genes are probably important factors.

Symptoms include: needing to urinate often, especially at night, difficulty in starting to urinate, straining to urinate, pain during sex or while urinating and blood in the urine.

Overall prostate cancer kills around 10,000 men every year in the UK.

Breast cancer
A study published online in the British Journal of Cancer last year showed that black women are likely to develop breast cancer two decades earlier than white women.

The study found that black patients had breast cancer diagnosed on average at 46 while white patients had a diagnosis at an average age of 67.

The findings show that black women had lower survival rates even with smaller tumours. That suggested that tumours in younger black patients were more likely to be aggressive and were less likely to respond to some types of breast cancer treatments.

Cervical cancer
There are no statistics to show how widely this affects black women.

However, they can learn from the recent death of reality TV star Jade Goody, whose battle with cervical cancer is a sad reminder that women need to get regular cervical smears.

Each year 2,800 women are diagnosed. But cervical cancer, which is treatable if detected early via cervical smears, kills 1,000 women each year. Common symptoms include bleeding between periods and pain during sex.

Black people are more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke than the general population, says the NHS Choices website.

High blood pressure has no symptoms and puts you at risk for stroke, heart attack and kidney problems. So it is best to ensure you get regular check ups.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Blood Pressure Association told NHS Choices: “It’s not fully understood why African-Caribbean people are likely to have high blood pressure."

“However, we know that a healthy diet combined with exercise and awareness can make a vital difference in preventing early death from stroke, heart attack or heart disease.”

Sickle cell anaemia is a debilitating inherited blood disease that affects 12,500 people in the UK, many of them black.

Sickle cell sufferers often face excruciating pain or stroke during a flare up which often severely impacts on their daily life.

Sickle cell campaigners are attempting to get the condition recognised as a disability and have urged the government to give those living with sickle cell and Thalassaemia, a inherited condition affecting the blood, free prescriptions.

Some 240,000 others also carry the sickle cell trait. Many people are not aware they are carriers because they do not go for regular screening.

Data from the Black Mental Health UK (BMUK) organisation indicates that black and mixed race people are more likely to be sectioned than others, with their admission rates ten times higher than the national average.

Statistics from BMHUK coordinator, Matilda Macattram, says that those with African-Caribbean backgrounds are 50 percent more likely to enter the system via the criminal justice system or the police; 44 percent more likely to be sectioned, 29 percent more likely to be forcibly restrained, 50 percent more likely to be placed in seclusion and make up 30 percent of in-patients on medium secure psychiatric wards despite having similar rates of mental illness as British white people.

The NHS Choices website says: “Everyday life has a big impact on mental health, and black communities in the UK are still more likely than others to have to face issues such as bad housing, unemployment, stress and racism, all of which can make people ill.”

BMHUK has maintained that many black people are unfairly sectioned because of racism and many of those who are hospitalised continue to face discrimination within the mental health service.

Health charity, Diabetes UK, says more than 300,000 people of black or South Asian origin across the UK have already been diagnosed with diabetes.

Its report Diabetes - Beware The Silent Assassin, also shows that 70,000 black and Asian people are not aware they have diabetes.

Data indicates that black and Asian people are four times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, which is often lifestyle related. Black people are likely to develop the condition and its complications at a younger age than the rest of the population.

Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness and causes more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined.

7. HIV

More than 80,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, including more than 18,000 Africans and 1,500 from the African-Caribbean communities. Statistics show that two thirds of new infections in 2005 were in the black community.

In addition, Health Protection Agency (HPA) data showed that in 2007, 189 black Caribbean people were diagnosed with HIV.

42 percent of black Africans diagnosed with HIV in the UK are diagnosed late.

“With recent medical advances, it’s now possible for people with HIV to live long and healthy lives."

“However, if they leave it too late to get tested, they’re setting themselves up for serious health problems,” warns Marc Thompson, from sexual health charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).

Black and mixed race bone marrow donors make up less than three per cent of the 700,000 people on the UK’s four donor registries.

This means that a black six-year-old with leukaemia such as Imogin Appiah has only a one in 100,000 chance of finding a suitable bone marrow donor.

For more information on upcoming drives, visit or call the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) on 0208 240 4480.

You can also contact the Anthony Nolan Trust at or 020 7284 1234 or call the National Blood Service and Blood Donation Centres. Tel 0845 7711 711.

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