Actor Chadwick Boseman, probably best known for portraying the Marvel comic book character Black Panther, died from colon cancer last week at 43 years old.
Though his death was a shock to fans around the world, it’s becoming more common for young, Black adults to contract colon cancer in the U.S.
The medical community is bringing awareness to this disparity and screenings for this disease.
Before it was known that Boseman had colon cancer, Dr. Ed McDonald, a gastroenterologist and associate director of adult nutrition at University of Chicago Medicine, wrote about how hypothetically people living in Wakanda would be at low risk for the cancer.
“There was a character in the movie that indicated that some of the Wakandans were vegetarians, so we know that adopting a plant-focused diet could potentially decrease the risk of developing colon cancer,” McDonald said.
Within Cook County, Black people are 26% more likely to get colon and rectum cancer than white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Screening rates a bit lower, but they’re not that much lower,” McDonald said. “The difference that were seeing is not just because people aren’t getting colonoscopies — there’s something else going on.”
While food and exercise also play a role into the likeliness to get colon cancer, McDonald said structural racism is a major factor.
It’s deeper than simply telling people to get a colonoscopy—it’s about access to health care, he added.