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Denver-area hair salons become part of national lung cancer awareness campaign

DENVER — The Lung Cancer Foundation of America (LCFA) is launching a national awareness campaign called Saving Lungs Behind the Chair, starting in Denver. Its goal? Increase lung cancer survivorship rates, especially among Black Americans.

The campaign aims to use familiar and comfortable spaces, like hair salons, to help raise awareness about lung cancer by training hairstylists and salon owners on how to inform their clients about the importance of lung cancer screening, getting biomarker testing when diagnosed, and the benefits of clinical trials.

Rosalyn Redwine, owner of Winning Coiffures Salon on Colfax Ave., said she got a call from a doctor with whom she has worked in the past, who asked her if she would be willing to talk or take on the task of helping spread the word about lung cancer.

“Since I was on a campaign to do mental health, I thought, ‘well, what better thing but to try to help somebody else, to save their lives?’” Redwine said. “I’m really excited and happy to be able to spread this news about lung cancer, because I understand that it’s one of the major killers of the African American families, that smoking menthol cigarettes is what they’re really targeting. That is the big problem. And so I’m just willing to help to get this thing spread out so that we can begin to save lives.”

Redwine is one of two Denver-area hairstylists who are helping launch the campaign.

The LCFA reports Black Americans have the highest lung cancer mortality rate of all racial groups in the U.S. Data from the LCFA shows cancer is the number one cause of lung cancer-related deaths in Black men and the number two cause of cancer-related deaths for Black women.

“My grandfather, he passed, he never smoked. But he was a product of secondhand smoke. And then my father, he currently has it… I recently lost my aunt to lung cancer in February,” said Tracy Moore, owner of Hairworks. “So it’s really fresh in my mind. It really hit home to me. So when they said, ‘we would like you to be a part of this,’ I said, ‘of course.'”

Moore is the other stylist who is a part of the Saving Lungs Behind the Chair campaign.

“Once your stylist puts their hands on your hair, you feel like you know them and they (the client) feels calm, you feel comfortable with them… our clients trust what we say about their hair, and their health,” Moore said.

More data and research

The American Lung Association (ALA), two-thirds of uninsured people living in the United States are people of color and healthcare coverage can have an impact on lung cancer outcomes.

Th American Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer report found Black patients with lung cancer were 15% less likely to be diagnosed early, 19% less likely to receive surgical treatment, and 16% less likely to survive five years compared to white patients.

A BMJ Open report found Black Americans have the highest morbidity and mortality rates for most cancers compared to other groups.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also researched the impact of smoking cigarettes on lung health.

The CDC found fewer people smoke cigarettes now, but the use of menthol cigarettesamong smokers has increased, particularly with population groups that have experienced tobacco-related disparities.

The CDC data also found that the tobacco industry aggressively targets its marketing particularly toward young people and Black Americans.

Between 1980 and 2018, an estimated 1.5 million Black Americans began smoking menthol cigarettes and 157,000 Black Americans died prematurely because of menthol cigarettes, according to the CDC.

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